Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Insanity restored - turning into a Tory.

For students of the less-than-often-spotted Nick Clegg, Prime Ministers Questions is the time to catch him in repose. Then, aficionados can spend a happy half hour studying the somnolent behaviour of the man whose main claim to fame is deputy to Dave.

Imagine then today's rude awakening when, with the PM on the run in China, Nick was suddenly asked to speak for the nation. Within seconds he decided that shouting for the nation was by far the better approach and so PMQs morphed into its deputy variant.

Regular, if jaundiced, readers may sometimes find it hard to work out the value of the real deal. So, they may need some patience to calculate the excitement of a parliamentary session which pitted Nick against Labour counterpart, Harriet Harman.

But, it was obvious from the off that MPs on both sides thought there was even more sport to be had than just in hurling insults at each other.
Instead, in  a rare display of unanimity, right-wing Tories joined with left-wing Labour MPs to heap abuse on the Lib Dem leader.

As Nick noisily defended "the government" without mentioning the coalition, the Tories cheered and Labour jeered. Only minutes in, the session was already out of control and Speaker Bercow made an early and ignored intervention to call for calm.

The Prime Minister, as we know, has been in Beijing trying to knock out bits of the UK to anyone within living distance of the Great Wall. His claim to have a special relationship seemed dented overnight when the Chinese equivalent of the Daily Telegraph described the UK as a historical theme park.

But, as Dave made a last effort to sell us off, he still had the presence of mind to send his minder Chancellor George into the chamber. And George certainly seemed delighted as Nick mouthed phrases that could have come straight from whoever regularly writes the PM's scripts.

With the PM dodging his Q's once again, Ed Miliband took the opportunity to go missing as indeed did his sledging lieutenant Ed Balls
This left his deputy Harriet sticking religiously to her script as her lack of experience at extemporaneous insulting was displayed. She tried her best with the usual attacks; "bedroom tax" and "energy prices"  were run out, but the venom that usually marks PMQ clashes was absent.

But, needless to say, unanimity on the Government benches could not be maintained and normal service was resumed when a Tory MP asked Nick about Europe. With the recidivist wing of Dave's party convinced that Nick and his sandal wearers are the only obstacle to freedom from foreigners, the question restored equilibrium.

With half the Conservative side of the Cabinet on the lam in Dave's absence, Lib Dem members packed the front bench trying to show support - apart from Vince who looked like he'd rather be in China.
By now insanity had been restored to all sides and even former Lib-Dem leader Charles Kennedy made a rare intervention which seemed lost to most present.

It was left to the aptly named Peter Bone, the Billericay-born Tory MP for Wellingborough to sum of the day's proceedings. Mr Bone, who favours re-introduction of the death penalty, banning the burkha and conscription has often described Mr Clegg in terms unsuitable for a family blog.

But, today, he said, the "acting Prime Minister" had been "outstanding" and "marvellous".

Indeed, he said, the deputy PM was "turning into a Tory".

With that even the Speaker gave up and everyone sat down.