Wednesday, March 12, 2014

PMQs round-up March 12th - Home from Home

Some might think it churlish to accuse the Prime Minister of fleeing to Israel to avoid his regular Wednesday whacking in the House of Commons.
But, this column did not get where it is today by dodging the opportunity to churl when it's presented.

Offered the chance to face his enemies at home or make new friends abroad, Dave was up at dawn to board the red-eye to Jerusalem.
In his wake he left a selfie of himself looking suitably angry, waving a fist, to be sent to President Putin if the Ukraine situation deteriorates further.
Not to be outdone, Ed Miliband also chose today to send one of his own, showing two fingers to those who want a referendum on Europe.

With the two major issues of the day now unresolved to every one's disatisfaction, Ed followed Dave and went missing. Their disappearance, though welcomed in many circles, left obvious - even to their  enemies - gaps at Prime Ministers Questions.

Step forward  then those who, but for God and the electorate, would be Ed and Dave.

It was the day of the deputies - Nick and Harriet - released blinking into the daylight on an unsuspecting public. Both have had their own trials and tribulations; Harriet recently monstered by the Daily Mail into a master (mistress?) class of how not to handle a story. And the Deputy PM, monstered by just about everyone, on his daily journey to match Kim Jong-un in the popularity stakes.

You have to hand it to Nick Clegg - which everyone proceeded to do - for just turning up in the torture chamber. He had that haunted look of a man who knew his enemies were massed in front of him on the Labour benches. And equally massed behind him on the Tory ones.

Having spent the last month making it clear how little he had in common with his partners in the coalition he now had to spend half an hour arguing the opposite.
Easy peasy, said Harriet - or she might have said had she not gone to St Paul's - who proceeded to offer him the chance to hang himself again, and again, and again.
Escape was not an option since Dave had left his rottweiler Chancellor George tied up in his usual position blocking the exit down the front bench.

Several of the usual suspects, including Health and Defence Secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Philip Hammond, had taken themselves out of harms way.

And it should be noted that the benches on both sides showed gaps where, with their leaders away, some MPs may have taken advantage of the spring sunshine and off-peak tickets to Brighton.

So it was with George grinning wolfishly that Nick made it to his feet to the cheers of both sides united, for once, in their search for blood.

It has to be admitted immediately that PMQs is not a natural amphitheatre for Harriet's undoubted skills.
With their commitment to take sexism out of daily life, Tory MPs treated her with at least the same contempt - though with slightly less volume - than they do her leader.

With Ed M away, Ed Balls had also been unchained for the day, but left Yvette Cooper, who must have studied him closely, in his place.

Harriet stuck to her script, threw in a slew of insults as delighted MPs on both sides by describing Nick as "unfair, absurd and hated". She also tried a joke but most of the chamber had nodded off before she got to the punch line.

Whether or not George had his arm up Nick's back, it must be reported that the Deputy PM had obviously swallowed a bottle of loyalty pills. Instead of seizing the chance to re-emphasise his independence from the Tories, he put on a Dave-like performance attacking Labour.

Confused Tories did not know whether to twist or bust, confused Lib Dems looked glum and Labour just looked confused.

Shameless and spineless were hurled into the mix and even the Speaker bestirred himself to complain about the noise - but it wasn't like the real thing.

Meanwhile the real thing was going on - in Jerusalem.

The story so far is Dave had travelled the globe, escaping his many friends in the House of Commons, to speak to the Israeli equivalent the Knesset.
There he planned to follow his hero Mr Tony, who always found foreigners much more grateful for his gifts than home supporters. But, obviously sensitive to his PMQ withdrawal symptoms, Israeli MPs decided to stage a mini-riot of their own to make him fell right at home.

MPs howled down the welcoming speech from Prime Minister Netanyahu, a member was ejected and the opposition walked out.

Home from home.