It is perhaps not a widely known fact that the shuffle is a move in tap dance, and the reshuffle is a small routine. The shuffle itself is a two-sound move, other two-sound tap moves include: the scuffle, the flap, the slap, the pickup and the pullback.
This week’s Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs) Ed Miliband reminded me of an amateur tap dancer, perhaps one at a school competition, desperate to impress his family with his ropey moves.
He started with ‘the scuffle’ over the move of Michael Gove from Education Secretary to Chief Whip. Ed told the House he supported anything the government had done right and therefore “joined with thousands of parent up and down the country who supported the sacking of the Education Secretary”. Cameron retorted that he wanted “the very best” to replace his retiring Chief Whip, Sir George Young.
The PM was then accused of having a short memory, as Ed pointed out he had previously said “I want to trust the education secretary to get on with that job for many years”. Ed thought it was very odd that he has been moved from the job less than a year after.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Ed had ‘side stepped’ mentioning jobs, despite today’s falling unemployment figures because “his own job looks a bit shaky”. He also gave a list of successes in education, from free schools to rising standard.
“If its been a great success why did he sack him” asked Ed before moving on to a favoured topic, the working poor. Apparently there are seven million people in work but also in poverty, said Ed. Once again careful side stepping the fall in unemployment.
But Cameron was too quick for Ed’s flat feet and thundered back that employment is up by 254,000, women’s employment is up as is youth employment. Not only that but there are now 1.8m more people in work. The PM claimed that what was extraordinary was that the Labour frontbench were still in their jobs. Cameron had just shown him how to perform ‘the slap’.
Ed continued to tap out his line, this time he said that one in four working young people lived with their parents as they could not afford a property. The PM told him that the only way to get more people into work was to cut taxes and Labour opposed that.
Despite the low score for that encounter Ed did not change his routine, claiming Cameron had the “worst record on living standards of any Prime Minister in history”. All this to the mood music of cries of “weak” from the Conservative benches. Ed was now doing ‘the flap’ but nonetheless pressed forward on with his next move, to ask about tax cuts for millionaires.
The PM came back by saying that he was happy with his own team and happy with Ed’s team as well, given that it includes the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls. He also quoted the Deputy Labour Party Leader Hariet Harman who had said “I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through taxes”.
Perhaps inexplicably Ed attempted ‘the pickup’ by claiming “this is totally desperate stuff”, a comment that badly backfired as the Conservatives pretended to assume he was referring to himself. And the exchange finished with Cameron saying that the Conservatives reshuffle the Cabinet whereas the “Shadow Cabinet want to reshuffle the leader”. Time for Labour to ‘pullback’ their support for Ed?
At the end of the exchange there was a bit of nostalgia as former Liberal Democrat Leader, Charles Kennedy asked a question about Scotland’s EU membership if they vote for independence. Prior to the election, the leader of the Lib Dem’s always asked two questions after the Labour leader had finished. This practice ended when the coalition came in.
Overall: Tap dance is great if you know how to perform it but if all you do is fluff you’re moves you’ll end up slapped, flapped and scuffled all the way off the stage. I think its curtains for Ed.
Bercow: 0 (not as annoying as usual)