Political satirists can make or break an MP’s career.The satire-writers and illustrators do so not with any investigative unearthing of misdeeds, but with a slow, drip-drip of observation of how our parliamentarians perform. They create the image which the broader public ends up remembering about certain MPs.
Think David Steel in the pocket of Spitting Image’s David Owen. Or Steve Bell’s cartoons of John Major and his underpants.
So it’s not a good idea to get on the wrong side of the diarists, as Croydon South MP Chris Philp appears to have done with Patrick Kidd, who writes The Times sketch which for many years was the preserve of Matthew Parris and Hugo Rifkind.
It’s not as if the political diary in Murdoch’s Times is unsympathetic to the Tories usually. But as Philp approaches his first anniversary as an MP, he has undergone his first gentle skewering after a performance in a select committee yesterday which Private Eye would no doubt label “arslikhan”. Writing for The Times, Kidd was much more polite. He said Philp endulged in arse-kissing.
Kidd also called Philp a “toady” for his obsequious, Uriah Heep-style fawning over Chancellor Gideon Osborne.
“It is one thing,” Kidd wrote, “to be a toady in the chamber of the Commons…”
What follows could almost be a description of the career of Philp’s Croydon Tory colleague, Gavin Barwell, who in his six years in the Commons, has risen without trace: “Before you know it, all self respect has gone out the window and you are asking the Prime Minister whether he agrees with you that he is doing a really good job in the hope that he will reward such sycophantic loyalty with a move to deputy bag-carrier with responsibility for teabags.”
In fact, we think that is exactly the job which Barwell gets paid an extra few grand a year to do. And a mighty fine job of doing it he does, too, if you ask him.But Philp plumbed new depths in committee yesterday.
Since being elected, the new boy has been appointed to the Treasury select committee, and in recent months has been a frequent and very eager interviewee on television and radio whenever Conservative Central Office wanted to wheel out someone to voice the party line, and Archie Andrews is unavailable.
It seems that it is not just when the cameras are rolling that Philp adopts his craven posture.
Observing yesterday’s committee proceedings, Kidd wrote: “’Can you clarify, chancellor,’ Mr Philp said, when given the floor, ‘why it is so important to run a surplus?’ Mr Osborne smiled. ‘I’m glad you asked me that,’ he said. ‘Now, deficits are bad. When I took over, we had an 11 per cent deficit, the worst in history. We need to turn that into a surplus because, well, you never know what’s coming next.’
“I paraphrase only a little. ‘Good,’ replied Mr Philp, hoping that this helpful offering might result in him being promoted to minister for collecting the Chancellor’s dry cleaning. Now for another tester.
“‘Ken Clarke said he’d have been more hawkish than you,’ Mr Philp said. ‘Of course it’s easier to say than to do, but what’s your view of this?’ Mr Osborne explained that, much as he loved the former Chancellor, he had a different view. Mr Philp nodded enthusiastically.
“’Now, sugar tax,’ he went on. ‘Some press [you could feel the curl of his lip], prompted by the manufacturers of soft drinks no doubt, think your policy needs a rethink.’ Mr Osborne demurred. ‘I think they shouldn’t waste time and money on challenging us,’ he said…”
By now, Kidd’s patience had expired. “Truly, this was exemplary arse-kissing.”
It must be so reassuring to the voters of Croydon South that the local Conservatives have managed to install such a skilled arse-kisser to the job-for-life that is being the local MP.
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