Lord Dave could have been a doctor touring the day room at a care home
QUENTIN LETTS: Lord Dave could have been a doctor touring the day room at a care home, basting them all in Cameron butter. How the House of Lords loved it
To Parliament’s fustier end, where the scent of boiled milk blends with a hint of cracked leather, library dust and Chateau Bedpan. David Cameron was at the Lords despatch box, submitting to his first question time. Given complaints in the Commons that the new Foreign Secretary will be insufficiently scrutinised, this was a big enough occasion to draw The Apprentice’s Karren Brady (Con) –yes, she’s a milady – to the steps of the Throne. Even Peter Mandelson (Lab) graced us with his presence, gliding in as if on castors.
For 40 minutes, political cast-offs creaked to their feet, trying to blow some heat into the embers of their careers. Lord Boateng (Lab) kept bellowing ‘My lords!’, standing with arms crossed, making more noise than the rest of the stick-bound ancients. Satisfyingly, his bullying attempts to barge into the discussion got him precisely nowhere and he never got to ask his question.
Smooth, suave Dave, hair immaculate, voice like smoked trout, handled his new colleagues without difficulty. All it took to detach their gummy jaws from his shins was a little flattery. Then a flick of the leg sufficed to send them sailing back into their baskets.
Smooth operator: David Cameron appearing in the House of Lords yesterday
Smooth, suave Dave , hair immaculate, voice like smoked trout, handled his new colleagues without difficulty
He could have been a doctor touring the day room at a care home, complimenting Mrs Muggins on always having had a way with geraniums and reminding deaf Mr Sludge of the time they once shared a train to Margate. He basted them in Cameron butter. They loved it.
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Topics under discussion included Ukraine, Belarus and the principles of talking to terrorists (the Taliban and the mad mullahs of the EU). Lord Robertson, who as George Robertson was one of the better Blairites and then went off to run Nato, had the first go. He noted that Lord Cameron’s presence in the chamber as Foreign Secretary was ‘a fillip to those of us who go around the place saying, “Do you know who I used to be?”.’ This won a round of rueful, sickened laughter.
Lord Cameron affirmed the Government’s support for Ukraine. He stood behind the Rwanda policy, too. On the European Court of Human Rights, he suggested that Strasbourg might need to stop making a nuisance of itself – though he put it more diplomatically than that. He even complimented Boris Johnson for having been so quick to support Kiev against Vladimir Putin. Yet when he made that mention of ‘my successor as Prime Minister’, he massaged a tiny chuckle into the words. Just a hint of mocking superiority. This was unearned. Boris, not he, was the Eton scholar; Boris won a far bigger majority.
Their fraudships were out in force. In addition to seldom-seen Brady and Mandelson, safari tourists had the rare pleasure of spotting Lord Maude (Con) and Lady Jay (Lab). The latter sat in her place like a nesting osprey, ineffably grand, strongly beaked, the eyes oddly inexpressive. The socialist historian Lord Morgan (Lab), who is only 89 but looks as if he may have been one of Lloyd George’s golfing partners, entered the chamber and started clambering up a staircase like Edmund Hillary tackling Everest.
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron speaking during his first monthly question time in the House of Lords
Lord Cameron told Lord Robertson (pictured in the House of Lords chamber) he had been marvellous at Nato
Lord Cameron told Lord Robertson he had been marvellous at Nato. Lord Cormack (Con) was reminded of the time they campaigned together in Staffordshire. That convivial foghorn Lord Foulkes (Lab) was thanked for a lifetime’s sluicing on the diplomatic outer courts. Lord Cameron won bonus points for remembering who Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab) had been. Des Browne. Served as one of Gordon’s defence secretarys. A living pub quiz question.
On the crossbenches, the Duke of Wellington sat beside His Grace Charles Moore, the great basher of Arabia. Lady Smith (Lib Dem) had put on fishnets for the occasion. Lady Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) was frou-frou’d up in a red frock. Enter Lady Liddell (Lab), who in her prime was known as ‘Stalin’s granny’, but sat there wreathed in smiles.
The establishment was en fete, bestowing gracious approval at the return of its sometime dauphin.
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