"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

PMQs: Verdict

*With apologies to Rodgers & Hart

After one half-hour of banter
Hedge and backwards spring to mind
The PM was in a ranter
Reeling tractor stats purblind.

We're wild again
He's reviled again
He's a simpering, whimpering child again
With Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered on side.

Labour's - finis
Favours - finis
The cash that you stole from our tax - finis
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more.

It's a long one this week so settle down with a nice cup of tea and a chocolate hob-nob:

Another necessarily subdued & inglorious session of PMQs began with Brown listing this week's fallen in Afghanistan.  I'd like to say 'paid tribute' but really if he wants to pay tribute to our Forces he should sort out the MoD's own 'inglourious b@sterds', the procurement policy and a withdrawal plan failing better co-operation from ISAF and Karzai.  To think that our troops are out there, living with and mentoring Afghan Forces, some of whom then shoot them in cold-blood, is beyond the pale.

Bewitched (Harriet Harman, Dep Leader, Lord Privy Seal & Minister for Women & Equality) rushed to take her seat at the last possible second; in fact Brown momentarily waited for her. Bothered (Shaun Woodward the NI Secretary) sat to Brown's left and Bewildered (Jack Straw, Justice Secretary) sat to the right of Bewitched. I hope that's clear.  All the Front Bench appeared to be wearing red poppies rather than the white ones favoured by the Peace Pledge Union, of which Straw's parents were such enthusiastic supporters.

Jamie Reed (Lab, Copeland) had the first question which was about cancer care in the NHS and the PM's 'cast iron' guarantee to introduce more screening.  (Boos from some quarters).
Brown used it to dig at Andrew Lansley (Shad. Health) before he was actually cut short by Speaker Bercow:  "We will not only make promises; we will deliver promises ... I think, however,  the people should be warned about the NHS: the Shadow Health Secretary said yesterday... "  He stood, mouth agape in disbelief as Bercow said: I don't think we need to go into that today.  Mr David Cameron.

At last, Speaker Bercow has reminded Brown what PMQs is about.  It isn't about questioning the Opposition on their policies and it isn't for soft, planted questions signposted by a flashing neon arrow saying: 'Follow me and you can have another cheap dig at the Opposition instead of answering a real question'.

Cameron also led with condolences.  We must "honour their memories, care for their families, we must never forget their service."  He asked what would be done about 'this horrific and very disturbing incident'
Brown said he was grateful for Cameron's condolences and it would be looked into & security stepped up "where necessary" but mentoring of the Afghan Police was essential to train up Afghan police & army in the the interests of the future of Afghanistan and the security of our country."  Essential we are not seen as 'an occupying army' but working with Afghans and seen to be training...'

Cameron agreed that t&m was essential. Spoke of infiltration by 'criminals,drug dealers, militants'.  Afghan police described in a report by Foreign Affairs Select Committee as "one of the most dysfunctional institutions in the country with reports that the police were actively involved in criminal activities including the drugs trade..."
Brown:  Deflected issue on to the Taliban.  "It may be that the Taliban have used this Afghan police member or they have infiltrated the Afghan Police Force and that is what we have got to look at but it is the Taliban who have claimed responsibility for this incident...."  Brown gets the NSS award of the day.
Cameron: Clearly, the PM is right.  Our Armed Forces need to know that there will be "stronger economic, development & political effort" going in behind them.  Time to return to idea of single, strong, coordinating figure, "notjust a UN figure but someone who works across the coalition" to deliver this effort more effectively than anyone has done so far.  Is it being considered in Washington and does PM think it should be part of revised strategy.
Brown: Yes, we have been discussing this.  Must make 'shuwer' that Karzai deals with corruption - anti-corruption Tsars.  Efforts to shift from heroin to wheat production have been successful.  Final element for Afghan govt is the training of Afghan Forces.  "The only way we can look to a future where the numbers of our Forces can come down and still have security in Afghanistan is that an Afghan Army, particularly, is ready to take on the responsibility."
Cameron: Not a day for obsessings about the internal workings of Parliament and the HoC but isn't it important that we accept, in full, Kelly Report.  Does PM agree that in accepting this report, today is an important day?  One which says, 'from now & into the future MPs should not vote on our pay, expenses, pensions, our terms of service, our resettlement packages.'  He seemed to be looking to Cleggy on this one.
Brown:People want to know future will be different: open, trans-pairent, fair, not managed by MPs themselves but an 'independent body that will take responsibility for it.'  That's why 'it's right to refer the Kelly Report for action not by ourselves but by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.' 'Should accept the Kelly recommendations and make sure they are implemented as quickly as possible.'

Sorry that was rather long but I thought Brown/Cameron exchange worth reporting back as fully as possible given the topics they spoke about.

The next question was from Blunkett, who didn't let us down: "Would the PM tell the House what he thinks of the credibility of a Party leader who has spent so much time and energy attacking my Right Honourable Friend over the Lisbon Treaty only to reveal now that his cast-iron guarantee has turned out to be made of plywood."

This is rank hypocrisy.  This comes from a government that went to Court to prove that their manifesto pledges to hold a referendum on the treaty were not legally enforceable - and they won.  By that court case and precedent they managed to subvert the whole point of an election manifesto - that of politicians pledging to do a certain thing and that of the electorate trusting them.

Berkow:  "Can I ask the PM to focus his response on that of the government rather than that of the Opposition.".  If Berkow carries on like this I may have to wrote 'gbh' after his name.
Brown:(who was neither up nor down - his mouth agape, surely a jape, the crap foisted on this country amounts to rape - bb&b no more).  Mr Speaker, the government will work in concert with the leaders of the other 26 countries in the EU...  More 'i-ron cast guarantees' from Brown. 

Apropos nothing in particular, I can't remember one single week where I haven't seen Osborne look as though someone's just shot him through with muscle relaxant.  I know they need to keep their ears to the amplifiers but George is beginning to look as if he'd be more comfortable sitting on huge, embroidered cushions smoking hash and reeking of patchouli.  No doubt some weeks he wishes he was.  Some weeks he looks as though he's just come from a session and I have to open all the doors and windows to let the fumes out before the parrot starts singing Jefferson Airplane songs.

'If we'd followed your policy...
Your policies would have...
You care nothing...
The Shadow Chancellor said...
No one in the whole wide word agrees with the Shadow Chancellor...'

Clegg: After a shameful year for this Parliament...called for the Kelly Report to be implemented in full.  Added his condolences and prepares the way for a LibDem manifesto commitment to pull out the troops. ...
Brown:  See above.  Karzai will be 'tested by his words'.  I don't think so.  He will be tested by his actions, just as Brown is being tested.

While I'm on the subject of PMQs, it shouldn't it be an opportunity for the govt to brag about how many billions 'we' have given in aid to India or China this week.  At a pinch I can see why lefties have white man's guilt about Britain's colonial past in India (doesn't mean I agree though) but why throw money at China as well?  Oh, yes, of course, the First Opium War in the mid-19thC.  Now we're back to Jefferson Airplane again and Brown is still wittering on...

'My Dad's bigger than your Dad... Eat your babies...
Call you Tories because you don't like it.....

You get the picture.

When I go to London Town
I'll pull Gordon's trousers down
I'll give him twenty thwacks with glee
Ten from you and ten from me.

Other interesting questions this week came from:

David Winnick (Lab,  Walsall Nth): In paying tribute to the bravery of our soldiers,  isn't the country entitled to know how long British military personnel will be in Afghanistan and can this war be won?
Iddon (Lab, Bolton Sth-East): Pro-Gaza.  (Brown: We will ensure a Winter where shortages do not exist in Gaza).
Ronnie Campbell (Lab, Blyth Valley): Can the PM give a 'cast-iron guarantee that this benefit will not be cut or means-tested, unlike this party opposite.'  Hello?  Anyone seen the bandwagon?

David Davies (Con, Monmouth) '"Does the PM agree with me that the MoD should publish regular figures showing the number of soldiers who have lost limbs or suffered other life-changing injuries in Afghanistan and, if he does agree, will he let me have those figures by the end of the week?"
Brown:  "M-m-m-m-m-Mr Speaker, w-w-w-we give as much, er, i-information as, er, possible on what is happening in Afghanistan.  We have 9,000, er, troops there, we report to the House whenever there have been fatalities; I've reported to today also that there have been five soldiers seriously injured, many of them will end up at S-Selly Oak in Birmingham for the best treatment that they can receive and, I'm of course, happy to give as much info as possible consistent what the Chief of Defence Staff advises."

It's fast becoming clear that back-benchers' questions at PMQs are more revealing of govt policy than Cameron's.

Videos to follow.


  1. Some interesting snippets there, GV. It still mystifies me how you can tolerate 30 minutes of this dreadful fake concern and yah-boo juvenilia.

    BTW, Donald Campbell was the water speed record holder who copped his whack on Consiton. The Blyth member is one Ronnie Campbell who is better known for punching a constituent in a chip shop.

  2. since I was being pedantic, I had better correct my own error, too. The lake is called Coniston.

  3. Thanks Edgar and my apologies to you and Donald Campbells' family. I'll correct it.

    PMQs may be juvenile cr@p but it's the only regular way we can hold this govt to a/c at the moment - 30 mins, once a week, apart from at a GE. The fact that the Opposition, in my opinion, is rubbish at doing their job is neither here nor there. I just watch it and report what I find as truthfully as I can with verbatim quotes.


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