Wednesday, July 10, 2013

That'll Teach Dave to Poke Ed...

Whisper it softly, but, when Leonardo da Vinci wrote, 
"where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge",
                     he might just have got it wrong.

To be fair to the old Italian, each week in the House of Commons, MPs try their best to prove it true; but just now and again volume might equal information. There is, of course, no better place to test the equation than at the Wednesday noise-fest which masquerades as Prime Ministers Questions. 
Last week's contest ended in a clear win for incumbent David Cameron after the introduction of another Len - the slightly less artistic McCluskey - into the event. Readers will remember that Dave had Labour's Ed M on the ropes by making the latter Len, and his union Unite, the answer to all questions, to the uproarious delight of his back-benchers.


The PM may come to rue the day... 


But, the PM may come to rue the day he poked a stick under this particular rock if the decibels of delight which greeted Ed M from the Labour benches today are anything to go by. Normally, the PMQ bully-persons take a few minutes to gargle their way into full voice with various parts of the chorus taking time out to practise the descants they plan for the performance. But, they clearly had rehearsed earlier elsewhere today and were at maximum volume even before Speaker Bercow declared game-on.

In fact the Prime Minister only had time to gather loose election points with a quick mention of Andy Murray before the Speaker bounced up to make his first call for calm. It was at this stage that observant viewers were caught off guard by the sudden appearance to Dave's right of the Leader of the Lib Dems and Deputy PM Nick Clegg in what appeared to be a rather fetching red two-piece.
Mr Cameron has developed the habit in recent years of blocking out his Deputy's figure with strategic body swerves when he rises to answer questions. So, it was only when he sat down that one realised the two-piece was not Nick's but actually adorned the frame of Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.


Ed comes out fighting 


The Deputy PM was missing and unfortunate Theresa had emerged as the loser in this week's parliamentary pass-the-parcel. But she, like her leader, could only grimace and bear it as Ed was sucked to his feet by his backbenchers breathing in for their next bellow. Floored by last week's McCluskey onslaught he had come out fighting yesterday with a cunning plan to turn the embarrassment of Falkirk to an advantage. And, even before he spoke you could tell from the volume control attached to the Prime Minister's throat that it had him rattled.

Dave normally takes at least two questions from Ed before his expensive education deserts him and Harry Flashman takes over. But, he was at full-bully today even before Ed started on his questions about capping donations from companies as well as trade unions. Labour roared on as he trumped Dave's £8m-from-Unite charge with his £25m-from-hedge funds reply.
Speaker Bercow called on one apoplectic Tory MP to " Get a grip" as he paraphrased Italian Len.  
"You have to, listen in order to hear," 
he said - and both sides briefly united to ignore him.


Ed demands Dave's limits 


Ed demanded to know if Dave would back a £5000 limit on all political donations and he responded by saying Liverpool Len owned Ed, "Lock, stock and block vote." And that was Dave's increasingly voluble reply to further questions as his side looked even more like a posh Kop losing a home game with Manchester United.
What about the rich? asked Ed. What about the unions? replied Dave. 
Bercow bounced - again to ask the PM be given time to answer and Dave fixed him with that behind-the-bike-sheds glare.

Ed Balls, momentarily stung into silence last week, was back at his infuriating best and Dave glared again and marked him once more in the punishment book. A touch of the school bully plus a bout of union-bashing is usually a winner on the Tory side but there seemed to be a taste of hysteria amidst their red-faced reaction. And if they and their leader were already unnerved they only got worse when Ed suggested limits to the outside earnings of MPs if Labour get in next time.
Faces already puce with the pleasure of union bashing took on more ethereal tones as members considered the absence of lucrative outside earnings. The word 'bluster' seemed relevant as the PM sought to calm the panic spreading behind him.

Parliament was surely enhanced by members experiencing - and earning - elsewhere, he said, as his MPs found their voices again and shouted their nervous approval.

By now Dave was in full Flashman mode as he accused the Labour leader of being under the thumb, heel, foot and various other appendages of anybody whose name started with an L.
Ed was in their pockets, their thrall, their power, their constituencies and several other places as yet undiscovered by his advisors -- although it should be noted the Chancellor was also absent and may have been out looking for them.


 Labour's turn to laugh 


A week ago Ed M had to be helped down from the ceiling after the PM had McCluskied him but today, it was his turn to try out his grin again and Labour's turn to laugh.

With the chamber now on the brink of a collective heart attack the Speaker finally took emergency action and called on Dr Julian Huppert. Dr Huppert is not a medical doctor but he is the Lib Dem MP for Cambridge and has built up the unfortunate reputation in the House of Commons as a laxative - for want of a better word - for fellow MPs.

When he is called to speak, MPs groan and get on with other business, and so they did today.