Did we see the future at Treasury Questions?
I enjoyed watching Treasury questions this week. It was a fascinating parliamentary occasion that provided a window on the future and posed lots of questions. We were treated to the initial skirmish of Osborne vs. Balls, the political fight that will probably determine the next election. We got a showcase of fresh talent on the front benches. And we were reminded just how closely the coalition parties are aligning themselves. Why waste your time on PMQs?
It started with the heavyweight match weâ€™ve all been waiting for; the new champion Osborne vs. the long-time contender Balls. The first round was over in flash, no time was wasted. Both fighters scored a technical hit, but no damage was done. As a Labour supporter, I was pleased to see Balls in combative mood.
If Labour is ever to recover and win, it will have to wrestle the economic initiative away from the Tories. It is too early to say whether Balls can defeat his rival. He certainly has the talent and the energy to do it. But can he overcome his association with Brown and Labourâ€™s damaged reputation?
After the main bout, the treasury team and their shadows got to work. Unlike PMQs, everyone takes part, so itâ€™s a great chance to review upcoming talent. If you are bored of the same old faces, this is particularly refreshing. I was impressed by both sides. The Tories seem to have depth; David Gauke, Mark Hoban and Justine Greening add a lot of value to their team. But they are well matched by Labour; in particular Vernon Coaker and Chris Leslie are excellent communicators. Labour should use them more often. All of these politicians are sound tips for the top. Could we see Leslie vs. Greening at PMQs one day?
Questions from the government backbenches revealed the deepening integration of the Lib Dems and Conservatives. As I watched, I was reminded of the end of Orwellâ€™s Animal Farm. Without looking at the captions it was impossible to tell the coalition MPs apart. There is clearly a rapport between the two parliamentary groups. Even if the parties nationally are not yet ready for a pact, if one is ultimately required, the foundations are being laid today in the Commons. I was left wondering, is Cleggâ€™s pledge to rule out a pact worth as much as his promise on Tuition fees?
Jonathan is a Labour activist from West Sussex