Posts Tagged ‘commons’

Commons sketch: PMQs

13/07/2011, 01:53:18 PM

by Dan Hodges

Westminster. Noon. Prime minister’s questions.

Or was it? The Commons was agog with anticipation. Would he show or wouldn’t he?

David Cameron once bestrode the chamber like a colossus. Back when the News of the World was Britain’s best selling newspaper, the Metropolitan Police was still renowned for its tenacious and fearless pursuit of criminals, and Kay Burley and Adam Boulton were united in mutual professional respect.

Not any more. Over the past week there’s been more chance of spotting a unicorn standing at the House of Commons dispatch box than the prime minister.

Some wild rumours were flying.  David Cameron would be unable to attend because of a pressing prior engagement; like a speech on the big society, or washing his hair. William Hague would be standing in. Or poor Jeremy Hunt.

Personally, I was hoping he’d send Andy Hayman. “Nah, nah. I’m not ‘aving it. I’m not letting the right honourable gentleman get away with that”.

Sadly it wasn’t to be. Just before twelve a familiar figure appeared and took his seat on the government benches.

At least, it appeared it be a familiar figure. It looked like David Cameron.  Spoke like David Cameron. Went pink in the face like David Cameron.

But could it really be him? Only the week before the old prime minister had accused Ed Miliband of opportunism for attempting to link phone-hacking to Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB bid. Yet according to the new guy “It has become increasingly clear that while everybody to start with wanted in some way to separate what was happening at News International and what was happening at BSkyB that is simply not possible. What has happened at this company is disgraceful, it should be stopped at every level, and they should stop thinking about mergers and sort out the mess they’ve created”.

Old Dave had refused to call for Rebekah Brooks to resign. The new fella seemed to think she’d already done so, and what’s more, he welcomed it; “She was right to resign. That resignation should have been accepted”.

If Ed Miliband was fazed by the appearance of this prime ministerial doppelganger he didn’t show it. Then again, he’s undergone a bit of transformation himself. This time last week many in his own party were accusing him of being the new Ramsay McDonald for his betrayal of striking public sector workers. Today the public sector workers could go hang. The only pensions the Labour party was interested in were those of Murdoch and Brooks. And it wanted them drawing them in double quick time; “It would be quite wrong for them to expand their stake in the British media”, Miliband said, “Rupert Murdoch should drop his bid for BSkyB, should recognise the world has changed, and he should listen to this House of Commons”.

New Cameron agreed. He welcomed the cross-party approach being adopted by the leader of the opposition.

Ed Miliband rose again. This time he was wearing an expression of almost pained sincerity that left no one in any doubt that the time for cross party consensus  was over. Could the prime minister clear up one specific issue. Why was his former press secretary Andy Coulson a liar, a cheat, a blagger, a bounder, a baby snatcher, a forger, a cattle rustler, a grave robber and a teller of tall tales. Oh, and why had the prime minister been so unbelievably stupid in employing him?

Last week this sudden switch from civility to attack had thrown David Cameron. But that was a lifetime ago. And New Cameron was ready.

When Coulson had been employed he’d given him assurances. Not only that, he’d given those same assurances to the police, a select committee and under oath to a court of law; “if it turns out he lied it wont just be that he shouldn’t have been in government, it would be that he should be prosecuted. But Mr Speaker, we must stick to the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty”.

It may be that Ed Miliband was expecting a more evasive response. Or that in the excitement of the last week, he’s begun to believe Cameron was a broken opponent. For whatever reason, the confidence visibly began to drip away from him; “Mr Speaker, he just doesn’t get it”, he said, falling back on that well worn phrase he uses when he can’t think of a more spontaneous riposte. The Tory back-benches, sensing it, bayed in relief.

“I’m afraid, Mr Speaker, the person who is not getting it is the leader of the opposition”, responded New Cam. “What the public want us to do is address this firestorm. They want us to sort out bad practices at the media. They want us to fix the corruption in the police. They want a proper public enquiry”.

The world had indeed changed. But maybe not quite as much as we thought.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.

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