Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 3 October 2012

Ed Miliband, in Manchester, invoked a speech by Disraeli 140 years ago, in the same city. Prudently, he did not quote it: you won’t find much ‘One Nation’ stuff there. In it, Disraeli devoted his energies to attacking the radical forces which ‘were determined to destroy the Church and the House of Lords’ and were threatening even the Crown. No matter, what Mr Miliband is doing is, to employ another Disraeli phrase, ‘stealing the Whigs’ clothes while they were bathing’. (For this purpose, and possibly for others, we can call the coalition Whigs.) He has noticed that David Cameron’s great selling-point — ‘We are all in this together’ — has weakened in office, and so he has mounted an audacious raid and grabbed it. ‘Who can make us One Nation?’ Mr Miliband asked. It is the right question. Mr Cameron will now be forced to answer it properly next week.

The most comical political photograph of the summer was that of the post-reshuffle coalition seated round the Cabinet table. There were so many people that they were virtually sitting on one another’s laps. The picture gave visual proof that ministerial office now has very little to do with who actually runs the country, and is simply a sort of reward, or consolation prize. The numbers have grown because, although the size of the Cabinet is capped by law at 22, David Cameron has greatly extended the number of ministers given the right to attend Cabinet without being a member of it. A note recently published on the official Parliament website computes the growth in the ‘payroll vote’. This includes parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs), who, though unpaid, are bound to vote with the government, and also those ministers who are unpaid in order to get round the cap on numbers. In 1983, the first year in which the full ‘payroll’ count was made, there were 122 MPs on it.

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