Friday 23 July 2010

Coaker schmoozes the chamber

I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but there was something familiar about the way Vernon Coaker moseyed on over to the Government front bench and started chatting with his political opponents this week.

The Gedling MP had just been at the opposition despatch box, arguing with coalition ministers over the Government’s proposed Academies Bill.

It realised that the scene reminded me of something that happened at an election hustings back in May when Coaker as a sitting MP was faced with having to fend off a two-pronged attack from the Lib Dem and Tory candidates.

Before the debate Coaker went and sat next to the Lib Dem and started making small talk with her, building a sort of anti-Tory camaraderie.

By the time the debate started they were both all smiles – that was in stark contrast to the Tory candidate who was from the gruff angry-man stable of politicians.

The pair was also sitting on one side of the debate’s chairwoman – leaving the Tory candidate stuck on his own on the other side.

The visual effect of all of this was to make the Tory look isolated and unhappy, while making the Lib Dem look as though she approved of the Labour MP on a personal level. Needless to say Coaker won the hustings.

The Lib Dem later confided that afterwards she had felt “used” by Coaker. I chuckled at the time.

So it was that this came back to me when after the Commons debate this week Coaker wondered over and started chatting with the diminutive Lib Dem Education Minister Sarah Teather.

Coaker, who has positioned himself as one Ed Balls chief lieutenants, has a reputation as a big bouncer type of MP – but he’s got his sneaky side too.

If Balls does win the up and coming Labour leadership contest then Coaker could be in line for a top job.

Even if Balls doesn’t win, Coaker will still make a bid to be a part of the shadow cabinet and with the backing of Balls’ supporters has a half decent chance of getting in.

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