Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#pmqsketch The Beast and no Beauties

There are few words that can strike fear into Tory and Labour front benches at election time. But, here’s two: Dennis Skinner.

The Beast of Bolsover has been out of fashion since the 1980’s but  can still be found slumbering dangerously in the Chamber. He is rarely called but Speaker Bercow is known to turn to him when his nemesis, the Prime Minister, is getting too big for his expensively tailored shoes.

So, it was today when bumptiousness was about to be added to Dave’s long list of titles during Prime Ministers Questions.

It had started out looking like Ed Miliband’s day with series of detailed queries about the National Health Service. The PM looked worried and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt looked like he was just starting a colonoscopy.

Chancellor George had clearly rushed in to provide defence and bravely threw his body in front of Jeremy’s quivering frame. But, all proved unnecessary as the early morning game plan drawn up by the PM’s minders slipped into gear.

Instead of bothering even to acknowledge the questions Ed asked, Dave adopted best PMQs practice and asked one of his own. In fact he asked the same question - had Ed really said he would “weaponise” the NHS - every time the Labour leader opened his mouth.

As Ed got a bit more frantic, Dave got a bit more Flashman. Lessons in loutishness learned at Eton trump Haverstock Hill comp
and Ed started to falter as the PM turned up the bullyometer.

And so it was with the Labour leader firmly behind the eight ball that Speaker Bercow decided to drop in the Skinner.

At the mention of The Beast the Tory benches recoiled knowing not what was to come. Dave immediately took on the stance of someone about to face a fast bowled grenade.

Chancellor George took a firmer grip on Jeremy’s coat tails and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon suddenly found an interesting conversation to have with Theresa May.

Even Nick Clegg, making a surprise showing, looked up from his Blackberry. Former Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has career plans as a Bhudda impersonator after he retires, slipped further back into his folds.

Meanwhile over on Labour recoil too at the thought of what might emerge from the mouth of someone who once worked with his hands.

After 45 years in the House of Commons, Dennis Skinner is not the man he once was. But, the rare appearance of a rasping Northern accent and genuine on-going anger is still enough to get him a hearing. What about the food banks queues, what about A and E queues, what about zero hours contracts, he wanted to know.

Cheers from Labour, jeers from the Tories and was that a smile from Speaker Bercow. Dave, obviously glad to have been spared, squeezed out an answer having lost most of his voice beating up Ed.

And then it was over and time to start crawling towards day 98 of the run-up to the general election.