PMQs: Prime Minister’s tennis

Prime Minister’s Questions today was preceded by Scottish Questions, with our man in the chair. So we had a real bonus today, LibDemmy Chaps and Chapesses ! Nick Clegg on Cameron’s right and the large granite-like figure of Michael Moore on the left. For it was indeed he – “Most Handsome LibDem MP 1997 -2004” or “1997 – present day” for some, I’m told. Pass the smelling salts – the intoxication of power is overcoming me!

Talking of people on the front bench behind Cameron, they ought to realise that the camera picks them up. They seem to think if they are two or three down the line towards the Speaker’s Chair, they won’t be seen. But I saw Vince Cable massaging his temple and then yawning. And they say yawning is contagious, so thirty seconds after St Vincent showed off his fillings, Kenneth Clarke yawned. You cannot hide from the camera, all you Government yawners. And get some kip, for goodness sake!

Basically the main exchanges of the session were a sort of aperitif for the budget, if you really need one. – Which I doubt. Harriet Harman pointed out that unemployment is rising and asked Cameron not to add to it in the budget. Cameron said Labour’s plans to cut unemployment were not properly costed. Harman said that putting more people on the dole will not help cut the deficit. It’s like tennis isn’t it? Back and forward, back and forward. And the MP in the neck brace lights a Hamlet.

But Harman has hit upon a clever tactic in linking the cuts to unemployment. This will no doubt be a continuous Labour theme for the future months.

Harman asked Cameron to welcome Labour’s efforts when they were in power. Cameron replied that former Chancellor Alistair Darling’s growth figures were a “complete fiction”. It’s all getting a bit polarised isn’t it? – Each of them rushing to the opposite extreme of hyperbole while the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Harman accused Cameron of talking the economy down and hurting business confidence. Mr Cameron replied that Labour “did the economy down” when they were in power. Harman said Cameron’s attitude to Labour’s spending plans has been “less magic numbers than a magic roundabout”. Cameron responds that Labour’s leadership race is becoming like a “Star Trek convention”, adding: “Beam me up.” – All fairly cheap attempted witticisms.

Douglas Carswell seems to be getting more than his fair share of question spots at PMQs. Last time he asked a question which any LibDem would cheer. Not today. He asked why the government are proposing a referendum on electoral reform which was “not in the manifesto” but not one on further European integration “which was in the manifesto”. Crikey. Has Douglas Carswell transmogrified into “Dan Dare” Hannan? He doesn’t quite get the hang of this coalition business does he?

David Cameron came up with an extremely good joke today (not “beam me up”). Tory Harriet Baldwin invited Cameron to visit a new hospital. The Labour benches roared/jeered. You have to read into that “roar/jeer” that they were saying that this was a cheap set-up supportive question for Cameron from a “friendly native”. After Cameron struggled to be heard, the Speaker stood up and said “It’s in the rules of the House that it is the duty of Government back benchers to support the government”. Cameron, displaying a remarkably quick wit (I can’t believe I am praising the man so readily these days – oh, the joys of coalition!) replied “We all remember you doing that so well”. The Speaker, John Bercow was very amused at this because he was known as a bit of a thorn in the side of the Conservative benches (he got the Speaker gig mainly because of Labour votes) when he was there. But the Tories were in opposition then, so the joke didn’t quite work but it was very funny nonetheless – in a Commons “in joke” sort of way. This is what passes for humour at PMQs. We have to enjoy any light relief on offer really, and be grateful for it.

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6 Comments

  • “Each of them rushing to the opposite extreme of hyperbole while the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

    Welcome to duopolitics!

  • Andrea Gill 16th Jun '10 - 6:10pm

    Re the Carswell question, this is so clearly outlined in the coalition agreement, and indeed in both party manifestos (referenda on any further transfer of power etc), and a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would have been pointless at this point and has been flogged to death.

    Shame to waste precious time on flogging a dead horse, including Sheffield ForgeMaster and car manufacturing projects which have been discussed repeatedly and would be better off discussed in business debates, such as the one that followed PMQs.

  • But if I’m not mistaken, one of the interesting things about Carswell is that (as well as being a Europhobe) he is actually pro electoral reform – one of very few Tories to be openly pro. So his question is a little more ambiguous than it seems …

  • Andrea Gill 16th Jun '10 - 9:50pm

    @Dominic “he is actually pro electoral reform – one of very few Tories to be openly pro”

    Like I said elsewhere, I get the impression he wants us to move more towards the direct democracy in Switzerland. A country which, incidentally, is not part of the EU but has ties so close as to be beneficial to both without being detrimental to either. As a Swiss citizen having lived and worked in the UK for the past 10 years, I rather welcome this.

  • Maybe I am missing something, but no-one seems to have commented yet on Chris Huhne’s performance on “Question Time” last Thursday.

    A few days earlier, Chris had been pointing out that BP is almost as American as it is British, and that the public scapegoating of BP by the US media and political establishment was unhelpful (and wasn’t going to clear the mess up). Last Thursday, he had resiled from that stance and had shifted to a position where no criticism of the United States was permissible. Indeed, he even declined to distance himself from Obama’s grotesquely hyperbolic likening of the Gulf oil spill to 9/11.

    I should stress that all oil companies are probably as bad as each other, and the media-inspired hoo-haa is huff and puff, given that the oil industry is part of the establishment that is whipping up the noise.

    Are Lib Dem ministers to be the fall guys put up to defend the Tory government’s more unpopular measures? I suspect the answer is “yes”, in which case one wonders how long this so-called coalition is going to last. The growing army of the unemployed and destitute will no doubt want it finished pretty soon.

    PS: The drilling head (or whatever one calls it) that went phut was supplied by Halliburton. Now, remind me which former “Vice”-President was a big shot in said company?

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