Indeed, in the Mail, a week ago:
Mr Balls was economics adviser, while Mr Miliband was a mere special adviser. Ed Balls, now 45, loved to lord it over his staff, just as he does today.
Colleagues at the time recall he treated Mr Miliband, 42, like the ‘office boy’. Mr Balls liked Mr Miliband to make his coffee every morning. ‘He loved to bark out “coffee time”,’ says one well-informed source. ‘Ed sheepishly got up to make it.’
Even today, to the obvious irritation of Miliband, he is the one who always buys coffee for Balls and is often seen queuing at Westminster coffee bars such as the ones in Portcullis House. Balls never buys Miliband a cup. The reason has never been unexplained — and students of Sigmund Freud would struggle to give an answer.
Out of little beans, great cantinas and cantatas grow:
What a performance!
And that’s only Part One.
Our domestic Kaffeeklatsch were back in business for PMQs today, and Cameron reckoned the coffee-buying showed:
That’s just how assertive and butch the leader of the Opposition really is.
Even Tom Chivers, at the Telegraph blogs, remained unimpressed:
A few thoughts there: one, is “butchness” an especially desirable quality in a politician? Or is it only for leaders of the opposition? Should we expect, for instance, under-secretaries of state to be faintly camp, while, say, the Chief Whip should be a muscle Mary? And is making coffee or otherwise a good indicator of one’s level of butchness? One wonders at the sexual politics in the Cameron household, as Dave veers desperately away from the cafetière each Sunday morning, eager to maintain his reputation as a stone rather than a sponge.
Mark Ferguson, at LabourList, made a very telling and unpleasant comparison, suggesting that this show of macho strength could amount to Cameron’s Mission Accomplished moment. Reminder (probably unnecessary, but still):
Meanwhile, let’s divert to the OED for a clarification:
slang (orig. U.S.).
A tough youth or man; a lesbian of masculine appearance or behaviour. Also attrib.or as adj. In the U.S. also applied to a type of short haircut, crew-cut.
Yep. Thought so.
Oh, Mary Ann!
There is, as always, a bit of history to these things. Cameron’s is not a happy one:
What a leader doesn’t say is often more telling than what he does say. When Ed Miliband failed to turn on Tony Blair’s booers last week, we learned that he wasn’t prepared to stand up for Labour’s most successful leader. When David Cameron failed to turn on the sexist boors a couple of weeks before, we learned more than we wanted to about his attitude to women.
In response to a question from Tory MP Nadine Dorries, he began, “I know the Honourable Lady is extremely frustrated,” at which point the Labour guffaws erupted. Instead of berating the lads-mag louts, he chuckled, “I think I’m going to give up on this one.” Dorries was left humiliated: not only was she demeaned by sexual innuendo but her leader neither stood up for her nor answered her question. She sat looking mortified, chewing her nails, for the rest of PMQs. Up in the press gallery, I felt mortified for her too.
It’s good that Cameron apologised yesterday both for that incident and for having told the shadow Chief Secretary, Angela Eagle, to “Calm down, dear”. Channelling Michael Winner is never a good electoral ploy; when you look as if you are patronising 51 per cent of your potential voters, it’s political madness.
Mary Ann Sieghart does not feature in Malcolm’s Top Twenty of commentators, but she is mining a vein of truth there. Now we can add to her 51% all those “new age” men who are not too proud to make, or buy the coffee.
Don’t you bother your pretty little heads
Before we wrap up here, it’s worth considering what Cameron for women did in his reshuffle.
Accepting that Theresa May was immoveable (despite clearly having pissed off her junior ministers, who seem to have begged — with success — for a move), the other three women in the Cabinet were all shuffled off into supporting roles:
¶ Maria Miller as Culture Secretary. This is no big job now the Olympics are done, and the Leveson fall-out will be handled above her pay-grade. Probably a mistake, because this looks like a lady who could take ’em all on.
¶ Justine Greening demoted and sidelined at International Development. Think Clare Short: this job looks more and more like a parking spot. With the Tory right so exercised about Indian space programmes etc., DfID comes down to emergency and rescue only, with lots of lovely air-miles attached.
¶ Theresa Villiers hand-holding in Northern Ireland. Her brief amounts to (1) be nice to each other; (2) no, you’re not getting differential Corporation Tax; but, (3) yes, we are cutting back on the hand-outs — so get over it.
Owen Paterson found the job a doodle, allowing him oodles of spare time to paddle his own canoe in home waters, to preen and groom the ConHome crowd, and obsess about non-Northern Irish issues. So he gave us his best on pylons in Shropshire; scrapping Green taxes, and all energy subsidies (he has a brother-in-law to load the bullets for him); damning wind-farms; dashing for gas, even if it requires lots of fracking; gassing badgers; building the third runway; and some nifty backstairs footwork on Lords reform. Yes, Mr Paterson found a lot of time away from the office.
And, for an afterthought …
Perhaps Dave has some explaining to do.
Because we have the evidence.