PMQs: Hattie tries to throw a “stinger” in front of voting reform

Prime Minister’s Questions is definitely becoming more subdued these days. The bellowing and ya-boo atmosphere has reduced by about 80% since the election. The Cumbrian shootings have dominated both sessions so far, which has added to the quietish feeling.

Harriet Harman has suddenly developed an interest in the electoral roll and the fact that “3.5 million people” who could be on it, aren’t. Fascinating. She seems to have suddenly come up with this as a reason to throw a sort of police “stinger” in front of voting reform – or at least constituency boundary re-drawing. She seems to have forgotten that her party was in power for thirteen years. Why didn’t they do something about electoral registration then? And, as David Cameron retorted, the last election was fought on recently redrawn boundaries anyway – which rather kiboshed Hattie’s argument.

Harman then had a go about CCTV. David Cameron went off on one, ending up about rights to enter people’s houses. He did make some good points about civil liberties during which Nick Clegg nodded very strongly. Harman raised an estate on her patch where they want CCTV coverage. Cameron said it was all about proportionality. If only he could say that about voting reform.

Good joke from Cameron:

The party opposite is becoming more authoritarian and now Ed Balls, talking about immigration, is becoming the new Alf Garnett of British politics.

Nick Clegg sits on David Cameron’s right hand for these sessions, which is as it should be, I think. I thought I’d just mention that, because Nick sat at Cameron’s left hand for the first appearance of the dynamic duo in the Commons. While we’re on the subject of the arrangements, Harriet Harman was wearing someone’s curtains. Theresa May was wearing her Thunderbirds suit again. For gender balance, Nick Clegg wore a gold tie and David Cameron wore a blue tie.

It was good to see Tim Farron adding his remarks about the Cumbria shootings while asking a question about cancer patient waiting times.
Jonathan Evans, Conservative MP for Cardiff North threw in an interesting comment from former (Labour) government minister Lord Myners who supported the idea of the Office of Fiscal Responsibility with words straight out of the coalition “lines to take” booklet.

Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West asked about the Iraqi asylum seekers who have been flown back to Baghdad today. This has been condemned by human rights and refugee groups. Amnesty International say that the security of Baghdad is not sufficiently stabilised for such a return. Unfortunately, David Cameron swatted this question aside saying, essentially, that the whole point of going into Iraq was to make it safe for Iraqis. This didn’t address the point that, according to Amnesty International, it isn’t safe. A very disappointing move by the coalition government and I am glad that a Liberal Democrat MP was on hand to highlight this very worrying move.

Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative MP for Stratford-on-Avon asked if the St George’s Flag will fly over Downing Street during the World Cup. Yes, said David Cameron. I feel somewhat uncomfortable about this. This will set a precedent that could lead to unfeasible flagstaff management issues if Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England qualify for a future World Cup – or even two of them – does the St George’s flag go above the St Andrew’s flag if Scotland and England qualify? etc etc. But leaving that aside (and also somewhat side-stepping issues around the Union Jack itself – Where’s Wales?) the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of the whole country. I don’t think singling out one of the parts of the union for special treatment based on one sport is sensible. If Gordon Brown had been the PM when Scotland only qualified for the World Cup there would have been, I suspect, an outcry if he had hauled up the St Andrew’s Flag over Downing Street.

From the other questions asked, it is possible to discern an attack pattern from Labour. Yet again, the question of rape anonymity was raised, this time by Caroline Flint (and this time Cameron had some ammo ready in the form of some words from a study commissioned by Harriet Harman while in government). Yet again, a Labour MP, Bridget Phillipson MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, asked if a building scheme at one of her local schools, at Hetton, would go ahead. Fascinatingly, the Prime Minister did not answer this question, choosing instead to generalize about taking spending project decisions one by one. The issues of rape anonymity and school building programmes will haunt PMQs for a while to come, it seems.

James Gray, MP for Wiltshire North, came up with the interesting idea of eventually relocating the memorial at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan to Wooton Bassett.

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42 Comments

  • It isn’t a good sign for our individuality when we have to register how vigourously Nick is nodding when David Cameron speaks, is it? Hopefully Simon Hughes will be able to bring back a sense of separation as deputy leader.

  • Andrea Gill 9th Jun '10 - 6:44pm

    Wasn’t Clegg’s tie green?

  • There must have been 5 minutes of time used up this PMQs by various MPs banging on about who’d died in Afghanistan this week and how much they respected our ‘heroes’.

    Look, I get it. We have a brave army fighting in Afghanistan, and war means that a few people will die every week. But this has gotten so tiresome that I’d like to propose that they hold a 10 minute military worship session before PMQs, so I can then watch PMQs without having this boring tripe mixed in.

    I’m perfectly aware of what the military does, and I fail to see why their weekly work should get constant time spent on it every PMQs instead of people actually asking something of the PM. No wodner they want shorter questions – they need more time to opine about the damn military.

  • I think Jez has a point. I have no problem with the Prime Minister reading out names to open the session, it is the single most high profile parliamnetary slot and an appropriate forum I think.

    That said, why the leader of the opposotion (and Dave started this habbit) has to read out the names individually again, instead of just a blanket asociation with the PM’s comments I really don’t know.

    As for PMQ’s, possibly the dullest session I can remember for months. I suspect it will stay that way until September, Harman has the despatch box charisma of a moldy dishcloth.

  • Andrea Gill 9th Jun '10 - 10:36pm

    @MatGB – yes I think so too, you didn’t see him at all at the State Opening & he must surely be tired of looking at Cameron’s read end!

    @Paul – LOL, Thanks!

  • “Nick Clegg sits on David Cameron’s right hand for these sessions”

    That wasn’t an image I needed.

  • Andrea Gill 9th Jun '10 - 11:10pm

    @Adam Nick Clegg sits on David Cameron’s right hand for these sessions”

    That wasn’t an image I needed.

    LOL, well Cameron being a Left that isn’t a problem surely 😉

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Jun '10 - 8:29am

    Cameron’s a leftie? Now, that’s what I call realignment!

  • As a Labour Party supporter I am delighted that Nick Clegg has been silenced at Cameron’s question time. However, as a democrat and a keen observer of politics it is disappointing to watch Nick nodding and gurning with approval at Cameron’s second class responses. Cameron is obviously delighted to have silenced the man who made such an impact during the Leader’s debates. It’s true that Nick has his own Deputy Prime Minister’s Question Time but everyone knows that this is just a sideshow. Cameron stars in the main theatrical event and Nick is reduced to the role of spear carrier. Surely Cameron could give Nick permission to ask the occasional planted question?

    @ MatGB Absolutely agree. Last week Clegg sat on Cameron’s left and was completely masked. This week he sat on Cameron’s right and was well in the frame. Being on the right, of course, an appropriate postion for one who carries the orange book.

    @ Jez The ritual of the reading of the List of the Fallen was undertaken with great sincerity by Gordon Brown and appears to be appreciated by service families throughout the country. I suspect that if your coalition abandoned the practice now it would be greatly resented by service personnel, their families and patriots. I want it to stay because it reminds us every week of the futility of this war.

  • Angry of Teddington 10th Jun '10 - 10:51am

    @MacK

    As a former LibDem supporter, I am sickened by Nick Clegg and his total lack of principles and to see him at all let alone happy just makes me resentful. But anyway, I am saddened that the LibDems, having misled their voters, essentially play puppy dog (‘fag’ for those who went toa proper public school) to the Tories….. and all in the hope that they might get a pathetic smidgen of electoral reform.

    As for PMQs as a whole, why have it? Cameron simply deflects every shadow leader’s question to the effect that Labour were in for 13 years so why didn’t they do it? Or, he deliberately choses to misintepret questions in order to make a silly joke (perhaps he’s inspired by Lembit Opik).

    Going back to the silence of the LibDems, when a significant incedent occurs such as Israel shooting peace activists and then kidnapping them in international waters, you have to wait some time to here the LibDem reaction and it simply echos the Tory reaction. It’s a bit like libdemvoice.org…. it’s beginning to sound more like toryvoice.org but mainly covers LibDem ministers. I wonder if it’s a deliberate ‘snuggle-up-to-your-mates-ploy’ or simply a sign that they’re happy with power regardless of how smelly the bedfellow is.

  • gramsci's eyes 10th Jun '10 - 1:33pm

    Paul – “Hardly. There’s a list of no less than twenty-three Liberal Democrat policies in the recent Queen’s Speech here”.

    Good, because when they come back to haunt you don’t, don’t deny authorship of them (however they are eventually watered down) and co-authorship of all the other stuff that you are going to allow to happen in order to get thi

    23 – I thought the going price was 30.

  • Angry of Teddington 10th Jun '10 - 2:57pm

    @Paul Walter

    Well, whoop dee do….

    ■Making the tax and benefits system fairer and simpler, including a significant increase in the personal allowance and an ambition to increase it to £10,000

    This one’s already being hugely revised with a massive watering down of Vince’s CGT proposals thanks to the Tory press and backbench. At the same time, with IDS presiding at DWP, you can bet your bottom dollar that the poorest in the benefits system will be under attack – I think we’ve already had a significant whiff of this.

    ■Restoring the earnings link to pensions

    Can we really afford it? Hmmmmm, probably not so it’ll either be popped on the backburner or someone will suffer.

    ■Greater freedoms for teachers over the curriculum

    What’s all this? I think this sounds more like Gove’s privatisation of education where academies will attract the best ‘core subject’ teachers because they’ll pay more. Oh yes, but of course, academies will try and attract poor students because they’ll get a ‘premium’…. what rubbish.

    ■Measures to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses

    What’s this Eric Pickles’s ‘nudge’? Fantastic, bribe people to throw more packaging away rather than reduce packaging to start with. If Chris Huhne even tries anything innovative or challenging which he needs to do, he’ll be thumped down by the Global Warming-sceptic party.

    ■Support for low carbon energy production

    Nuclear!

    ■Financial services regulation to learn the lessons of the financial crisis

    How ridiculous, George Osborne has resisted anything significant and will continue to do so until there’s G20 agreement – never going to happen. Vince is already defending the conduct of BP which wasn’t going to bother making any provision for the devastation that they’re responsible for (even if it was someone else’s fault they know that they’re legally responsible under the contract).

    ■Fixed term parliaments of five years

    Dreadful.

    ■A referendum on the Alternative Vote

    Pathetic, what happened to PR, AV is not even halfway there.

    ■The right to sack MPs guilty of serious misconduct

    Define serious misconduct. I would say lying to the electorate as the LibDems have is pretty serious.

    ■Reform of party funding

    Oh yeh, wonder how the Tory backbench will take this?

    ■Moving towards a wholly or partly elected House of Lords, elected by proportional representation

    One of these days.

    ■A Bill to restore freedoms and civil liberties, through the abolition of Identity Cards and repeal of unnecessary laws

    Yep, bet Clegg and Laws had to negotiate hard on this one.

    ■Giving greater powers to councils and giving neighbourhoods and communities more control over planning and housing decisions

    What, is this the one that Zac Goldsmith was arguing with John Prescott about…. turning place like Teddington into ghettos for the rich?

    ■Ending child detention

    But leaving their parents locked-up.

    ■Fair compensation for Equitable Life victims

    What’s fair to George Osborne? Spurious.

    ■Enabling the creation of a national high speed rail network

    When we can afford, on the other side of the forthcoming recession plus a bit more.

    ■The modernisation of the Royal Mail

    Very neoliberal, following in the Tory footsteps to sell it for a pittance along with any other aspect of the public sector that appeals to the private sector…. wonderful.

    ■Flexible working and promotion of equal pay

    Until the CBI, IoD, etc veto it as impracticle.

    ■Strengthening the voices of patients and the role of doctors in the NHS

    The first thing that Lansley has done is threaten to fine doctors via their hospitals for frequent flyers.

    ■A commission on long-term reform of social care

    ……and then a review.

    ■Cutting Quangos and government bureaucracy

    This is Tory…. they announced their bonfire of quangos following dinner with James Murdoch. Coincidentally, Ofcom was going to play Guy Fawkes on this quango bonfire.

    ■Implementing the recommendations of the Calman Commission

    What a referendum but not a referendum?????

    ■A referendum on further powers for the Welsh Assembly

    Wow! Democracy in action bet this was a tough one to get past Cameron.

    In summary, Paul, all I can say is these 23 policies show how, yes, thank you, Nick Clegg et al are cleaning Tory studie, toilets, etc. Of course, if the Tories come up with something fairly nasty then in a truly democratic fashion, the LibDems can simply sit on their hands and not vote.

    Crikey, when you provided that link I have to admit to being slightly excited. Alas no, what a load of capitulating crap.

    Thanks anyway.

  • Angry of Teddington 10th Jun '10 - 3:11pm

    @Paul Walter

    I almost forgot….. I hope this is all based upon a ‘respect agenda’ (street speak I presume….. and if you disrespect someone on the Tory benches you’ll get knifed just as we’re about to see with Vince re – his CGT reforms).

  • Angry ex-Lib Dem 10th Jun '10 - 3:44pm

    I agree with Angry of Teddington!?! We were all fooled at the General Election by Clegg! It was him that led us all to believe that in the event of a coalition (which was painted as UNLIKELY IN THE EXTREME by Clegg’s allies in the media!) he would side with the Labour Party and demand the entirety of our manifesto be implemented. Sure he MIGHT have told the public that he was willing to bargain with either party and that compromise was inevitable… but he led us to believe that was nothing but a smokescreen by repeating it again at any opportunity! We have been betrayed!!!

  • Angry of Teddington,

    “■Giving greater powers to councils and giving neighbourhoods and communities more control over planning and housing decisions

    What, is this the one that Zac Goldsmith was arguing with John Prescott about…. turning place like Teddington into ghettos for the rich?”

    Comments like these reveal you to be, not what you claim – a disillusioned Liberal Democrat, but a dyed-in-the-wool, Philistine, hate-the-rich Labourite.

    You are in favour of building in back gardens. Why? Becuase it upsets people on above-average incomes, bourgeois environmentalism being a concern only of the rich, irrelevant to the broad working masses. Actually, garden obliteration makes life miserable for most people, but enriches cheapskate developers. But let’s not let truth get in the way of a good prejudice, shall we? (In the 1990s, the Labour Party in Ealing made a 1930s council estate a conservation area, precisely to protect gardens from developers. So clearly, some of the workers like green space too.)

  • Angry Ex Lib Dem,

    “Clegg’s allies in the media”

    Who are they? Melanie Phillips? Richard Littlejohn? Tony Parsons? Nick Cohen?

    “It was him that led us all to believe that in the event of a coalition (which was painted as UNLIKELY IN THE EXTREME by Clegg’s allies in the media!) he would side with the Labour Party and demand the entirety of our manifesto be implemented”

    Perhaps you would do us the kindness of pointing to where Nick Clegg actually said any of this. Demanding the implementation of 100% of one’s manifesto in a coalition agreement is patently ridiculous, as anyone other than the dimmest Labourite can see (I hope).

    And lest we forget, the dinosaurs in the Labour Party refused to go into coalition with the Liberal Democrats, preferring to wait in opposition for the Con/Lib Dem coalition to collapse under the unpopularity of the necessary cuts, then move back in. Someone once called that kind of attitude the prerogative or the harlot – power without responsibility.

  • Angry ex-Lib Dem 10th Jun '10 - 4:02pm

    Pah! Clegg did nothing to diabuse us of the notion that he would never agree a deal with the Tories, except for countless public statements stating the exact opposite! We know what we were meant to believe!?!

    And if anyone suggests that this is a satire, let me inform you, there are literally HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people exactly like me who feel the same and will NEVER, EVER vote for the sell-out Lib Dems as long as they live! Ever!?

  • Angry ex-Lib Dem 10th Jun '10 - 4:10pm

    Gah. I give up. Taking the piss is too hard when the existing target insists on behaving so illogically that it’s impossible to tell satire from fact.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Jun '10 - 4:30pm

    “Angry ex-Lib Dem” — I was enjoying it! But you’re right — it’s hard to tell the satire from the ones that really mean it. At least, I think “AngryatTeddington” really means it. Perhaps he’s just deep satire?

  • Paul McKeown 10th Jun '10 - 4:39pm

    Lib Dems, we are going to just going to have to get used to this sort of irrational ranting. It’s simply the bedrock of Labour activism, firing itself into a hissing, spitting fury, and an unspoken fear that they may actually become not only irrelevant not only in the Commons, but also in the country. I couldn’t be bothered rebutting any of this drivel, others are welcome if they have the patience. Real difficulties will arise when the public service unions are stirred into, sometimes perhaps justifiable, anger. That is going to be a much tougher test of our party and this coalition. Steel yourselves for it.

  • Paul McKeown 10th Jun '10 - 4:41pm

    The truth about the Labour party’s negotiations during the period of coalition formation was that no potential leader in the parliamentary party had the stomach to face Ramsay MacDonald’s difficult duty and lonely fate. It is always easier to talk than to do, particularly from within the ranks of Labour.

  • Angry of Teddington 10th Jun '10 - 4:47pm

    @Sesenco

    Calm down, you missed my point entirely….. the point about Zac Goldsmith is that he’s a Tory and the Tories round here were campaigning against garden-grabbing. It’s not strictly LibDem really.

    The point about Teddington being turned into a posh ghetto is true. There was a large derelict Seeboard site near here (brownfield) and there was huge opposition to any development even though it was due to contain affordable housing and an old people’s home. They even started a group and objected to their views (visual even though they didn’t have any) being obsured (nothing to do with gardens being grabbed), and of course, the noise whilst it was being built.

    Thankfully the development went ahead and the developers made certain concessions.

    Sorry to disappoint you Sesenco, old bean, but I am just a disillusioned Liberal Democrat not a ‘dyed-in-the-wool ‘Philistine, hate-the-rich Labourite.

    Where do you get Philistine from????? What books have you recently read?

  • Angry of Teddington 10th Jun '10 - 5:17pm

    @ Paul

    You’re accusing me with someone else…. I only remember Clegg saying that the LibDems are the only alternative to the Conservative Party.

    In fairness, when my membership came up for renewal last summer, Nick Clegg did his little we’ll join the Tories if they get the majority of support. I asked for clarification before renewing my membership although events seem to have beaten them to a response.

    Although not a member anymore, I did contribute to Vince Cable’s re-election and there was only talk of not voting Tory.

    So no, sadly not ‘troll’ city on my part – just someone who feels betrayed. Is this the contempt you give to any unhappy LibDem? If so, your smug attitude illustrates that your simply happy with power even if it is just an illusion.

  • Angry of Teddington 10th Jun '10 - 5:33pm

    @Paul

    Oh, well done, old chap, you’ve spotted the difference.

    Ok, it might be five years away but I don’t know anyone round here who voted LibDem (in fact, everyone I know) that’s happy now that the LibDems are a centre-right party rather than the only centre-left of the main parties. That they joined the Tories even though it was made clear in the debates that they were the only alternative.

    Nothing satirical about that….. at present, assuming Labour won’t change, we can look forward to three centre right parties. It doesn’t sound very democratic to me regardless of minor changes to the electoral system.

    What was wrong with being the LibDems without joining either party? Oh yes, sorry forgot… the Tories threatened another election so they capitulated.

  • Paul McKeown 10th Jun '10 - 5:46pm

    @Angry

    No, the Liberal Democrats decided to implement a number of Liberal Democratic manifesto pledges at the cost of allowing the Conservatives to implement a number of their manifesto pledges. All very sensible, and supported by the overwhelming body of Liberal Democrats, and as we saw in the recent election in Thirsk and Malton, understood by the general electors, too.

  • Angry of Teddington,

    I called you a Philistine because you were defending the building of high-density housing in gardens. The attitude that John Prescott takes is that things like gardens, architectural heritage, an attractive urban environment, etc, are of interest only to the wealthy and of no relevance whatsoever to what Enver Hoxha called the broad working masses. Authoritarian socialists have a similar line on “bourgeois freedoms” too.

    With regard to Zac Goldsmith, the fact that he is a mega-rich layabout, a chain-smoker, and the son of Sir “Jams”, doesn’t mean that just once in a while he happens to be right.

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