Cross-posted from Liberal Democrat Voice
Prime Minister’s Questions today was preceded by Scottish Questions, with our man in the chair. So we had a real bonus today, LibbyDemmy 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 – as voted “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 lark 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 “Order. It is not against the rules of the House for a Government Back Bencher to support the Government; it is not that odd.”. 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 “Mr Speaker, we all remember you doing that very 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.