May and Gove: shuffling, scribbling, but few signs of shaking on it

Reports of a reconciliation may be premature.

Having been separated on the front benches by Big Eric on Monday, the home secretary and the education secretary now had Philip Hammond, the defence secretary sitting before them at prime minister's questions. David Cameron is clearly considering a nuclear option.

It was Michael Gove who was vicariously first in the firing line as Ed Miliband turned his attention to extremism in Birmingham schools. "Twenty thousand can't be run from Whitehall," he said. "We need a new system of accountability."

Meanwhile, the education secretary shuffled around and jiggled his feet like someone who had just fallen into a vat of Walter White's true blue crystal meth. Unable to contain himself, Gove leant forward for some paper and started scribbling, underlining key points several times. It looked intended for the prime minister, but it got no further than the chancellor, who tucked it away in his inside pocket.

As George Osborne and Gove are allies, the possibility occurred that the note may just have been, "I hate Theresa, I hate Theresa, I hate Theresa" repeated over and over again rather than strategic advice to Cameron.

With or without the help of his education secretary, the prime minister fended off Miliband by suggesting Labour were merely trying to create a new level of bureaucracy. Given that new levels of bureaucracy are one of the most British of British values, you might have thought Cameron would have been more receptive to the idea.

Miliband switched his attention to delays in the Passport Office. May remained impassive, looking steadfastly straight ahead at a fascinating scratch in the woodwork. She may have fallen into a vat of valium.

The prime minister understands the virtues of long holidays better than most, so he was keen to reassure the country that theirs was not at risk. Well, not very. "The government have taken action to deal with this problem, not today but in weeks gone past," Cameron insisted.

Deep in her comatose state, May's synapses might have been desperately trying to send out the message she had only just insisted there was no problem in the Passport Office.

Too late for the prime minister, who dug himself in further. "The home secretary has announced today that new offices will be opened in Liverpool next week, with an additional 100 staff."

Before Miliband had a chance – let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he would have done – to point out that if everything was tickety-boo in the passport offices, why were new staff being taken on, the prime minister accused Labour of being allergic to good news. "Why didn't the Labour leader welcome the news that two million new jobs had been created?" For the same reason that Cameron didn't welcome the news that wage inflation had slipped to 0.9% and everyone is actually a bit more broke, presumably.

If there's a Turing test to determine whether a politician can talk convincingly about football, it's yet to be passed. Cameron failed miserably with his obligatory World Cup sign-off.

"I would not want to offer Roy too much advice … " he said. "If you have a strong team with a strong plan, stick with them, and keep on putting it in the back of the net."

As the Tory benches applauded loudly, Cameron ran the length of the Commons before sliding on his knees to welcome the new member for Newark. The 12-year old, Robert Jenrick. "Work experience," shouted one Labour MP. At least we know where one of the two million new jobs has come from.

Powered by article was written by John Crace, for The Guardian on Wednesday 11th June 2014 17.54 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010