Sketch highlights: Our picks of 2010

Ed Miliband getting used to being the new Labour leader
Ed Miliband getting used to being the new Labour leader

Here's ten handpicked highlights of the year from our sketchwriters, for your reading pleasure.

Brown stumbles; Cameron contradicts

February 10th: After 13 years in power, Gordon Brown became a last-minute convert to electoral reform. His proposals didn't do much in the way of generating sophisticated sparring between himself and Cameron, alas:

"Behind the Tory leader, his backbenchers were in a sort of Bacchic fury, shuddering with unpleasant rage at Brown's patent inability to answer the question. They pointed, they screamed, they rocked back and forth, clearly indignant. Except, of course, that they are actually politicians themselves, so one might imagine they have been in similar situations. Freud once referred to the 'narcissism of petty differences', which only goes some way towards explaining it."

Cameron's tale of the three sleazy pigs

March 23rd: David Cameron's last monthly press conference before the general election didn't turn out to be his final appearance there as leader of the opposition, after all, as he was forced back there on May 7th to make his "comprehensive" offer to the Liberal Democrats. Just before the campaign began the mood was very different: Cameron's remark that he was fed up with politicians being viewed as "sleazy pigs" prompted this cautionary fairytale of British politics:

"Once upon a time, on the banks of a polluted, grey river called the Thames, three sleazy pigs arrived to make their fortune. David Cameron was about to deliver the fairytale of his life."

Beautiful countryside, but not many voters

April 22nd: Conservative candidate Harriett Baldwin managed to improve her majority in the extremely rural West Worcestershire seat, shaking off a strong challenge from the local Liberal Democrats. Campaigning in such a huge seat - one of the largest, geographically, in England - had its challenges, but the Tories were up to them:

"In an area which should be as Conservative as Ann Widdecombe's underwear, West Worcestershire has now become a Conservative marginal. The local Tory candidate must surely be privately appalled. She's actually having to bother campaigning."

Pop-ular Cameron finally fizzes

April 28th: Elsewhere on the election trail, and's travels managed to coincide with the Tory leader as he campaigned in the north-east. His visit to the Coca-Cola factory in Wakefield prompted jokes about soft voters and the like, as Cameron's claims became more and more far-fetched:

"'If you cut me in half,' Cameron declared at one stage, 'I am a believer of the UK. It's tattooed on me like a stick of rock.' I looked with some alarm at the nearby Tory press officer, but she didn't seem perturbed. No violent manufacturing tool was swinging into action to test the leader's claim. Sometimes politicians know what they can get away with."

Hague and Osborne's good walk spoiled
Hague and Osborne's good walk spoiled

May 11th: During those frantic post-election days, when the country waited to discover who would form its next government, the biggest moments of excitement came when the Lib Dem and Tory negotiating teams walked to the Cabinet Office. The media scrum was intense:

"It was a miracle no one's limbs were broken in these rolling mauls. Innocent tourists were not crushed beneath the heels of British democracy. The only trampling in Westminster this afternoon appeared to be on Labour hopes of a Lib Dem pact."

A star-crossed coalition

May 12th: David Cameron and Nick Clegg's first press conference together in the garden of No 10 was a historic occasion - and extremely easy to sketch. Their obvious enthusiasm for each other, combined with the heady circumstances which had brought about their union, meant only one analogy was really feasible:

"It was probably for the best they were standing behind podiums. If they had been sitting down, the urge to reach across and squeeze each others' knees affectionately might have become irresistible."

Pallid Osborne's horror Budget

June 22nd: The emergency Budget was the first major milestone on the coalition's rocky road. George Osborne captured the headlines by raising VAT to 20%, but it was the general queasy atmosphere of impending doom which marked out his speech to the Commons:

"This was the parliamentary Osborne, the assured performer brought up on confident oratory. He looked pale and, perhaps deep inside, a little uncertain. If anything that only drove him to sneer all the more. 'We have paid the debts of a failed past,' he hissed."

Clegg slaps a dead fish

July 21st: The once-improbable sight of a Liberal appearing at the despatch box to defend the government proved an unexpectedly one-sided affair when Nick Clegg stepped up for the first time. His opponent, New Labour's dinosaur Jack Straw, was not quite up to scratch:

"Straw was just too weak, too slow, too pathetic, to count as a proper opponent. Clegg slapped him around a bit, as if he was a violent pre-pubescent boy who just found a dead fish, and then threw him back in the water."

Ed Miliband's dazed triumph

September 25th: After a summer of intensive campaigning, Ed Miliband's surprise victory over his elder brother David shocked the Labour party. Inside the conference hall in Manchester as the result was announced it looked as if the opposite result had taken place. Which made the final outcome all the more surprising:

"If the Ed Miliband biopic is ever made (and after today, who knows what's possible?) they must film this scene in the first person, the applause and cheering muffled, like they do in war movies after big explosions. Bombshells are frequently used by politicians when referring to policies of the other parties. Ed Miliband looked as if one of them had finally blown up next to him."

Terminator Ed ruins Cameron

October 13th: So how would Miliband perform against his arch-rival for the next five years, David Cameron? Their first clash at prime minister's questions was an unequivocal victory for the new boy in town:

"Some would call it passive aggressive, and indeed you can imagine Miliband gets pretty weird when he has a barny with the girlfriend. Personally, I thought he was like Terminator: emotionless, accurate and dangerous. You don't particularly want to have a pint with him, but you do want him taking on the prime minister at the despatch box."


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