PMQs: Yuletide draw to end a drab year
A scoreless draw between Dave and Ed, in many ways, reflects a year when neither have had much to shout about. They, and we, could do with the break
They’ve done it, they’ve actually done it. The Labour party has called for a full and independent inquiry into that fateful evening at Downing Street. Given Ed Miliband’s gleeful insistence that Andrew Mitchell used the crucial P-word that is only going to end one way for the Labour leader.
Mitchell himself sauntered into the Commons flanked by his new best pal David Davis. Thrasher stood at the bar of the House next to his friend and deputy chief whip Greg Knight, this is a man for whom exacting revenge will be especially sweet. Leaky John Randall wisely stayed out of the vicinity. The resurrection is on.
Ed’s decision to go on Afghanistan guaranteed a, shall we say, consensual opening to PMQs. The Prime Minister confirmed that 3,800 British troops will leave the country by end of 2013, leaving UK numbers at 5,200. No one will remain in Afghanistan post-2014 “in a combat role”.
More contentious was the Leader of the Opposition’s utterly painful segue into his next chosen topic of food banks, and indeed the subject itself. It seems like a different age - before cop conspiracies, plebs and Jimmy Savile - that Dave last uttered the words “Big Society”. Still, apparently not consigned to the dustbin of failed Coalition policies, its mention raised ironic cheers from the Labour benches and more than a wry smile from some of the more mischievous Tories.
Once more our pantomime villains barricaded themselves behind their increasingly entrenched battle lines. Miliband told Cameron that his “tax on strivers will be hitting working families”, reading out the frankly dishonest millionaires line for what seemed like the millionth time.
The PM hit back by reminding his opposite number that “the richest in this country will pay more in every year of this government than they did in every year when he was in government”. True as this may be Ed has a point that “no one believes him...he is partying with Rebekah Brooks, ready for the boxing day hunt. He cannot be a one nation Prime Minister”.
It all got a bit shouty-crackers from the Labour leader, and Dave had the best line of the day with his quip that “it wouldn’t be Christmas without repeats”.
In another life campaigning Tory MP Rob Wilson would probably run a popular right-wing gossip blog. Today he demanded an investigation into the whole sorry Mitchell affair; Cameron was perhaps understandably diplomatic in his response.
Then the terrible Yuletide comedy began as Robert Flello, the flamboyantly named Labour backbencher, read out his version of A Christmas Carol. He caricatured the PM as Ebenezer Scrooge, a line which would have had more weight if Flello himself didn’t look like the Grinch.
Panto season was well and truly underway by the time Tom Blenkinsop asked Cameron if he had ridden with the illegal fox hunt exposed this week. So amused with himself was Blenkinsop that he couldn’t conceal a snigger at his question of whether or not Dave “borrowed a horse from a friend”, the PM cryptically responded: “I’ve never broken the law...in this regard”.
With honourable members straining for increasingly cringeworthy attempts at jest, the Speaker did us all a favour by bringing things to an end. A scoreless draw between Dave and Ed, in many ways, reflects a year when neither have had much to shout about. They, and we, could do with the break. Merry Christmas.
Alex Wickham is a reporter at the Guido Fawkes website. He tweets at @WikiGuido
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