"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, 21 July 2010

PMQs: Summary + Videos + Updates

The faces and names at the Despatch Box may have changed this week but the tribute to our Armed Forces has not.

Marine Jonathan Crookes, 40 Commando Royal Marines
Senior Aircraftman Kinikki (Griff) Griffiths, RAF Regiment
Sgt David Monkhouse, Royal Dragoon Guards
Staff Sgt Brett Linley, 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rgt, Royal Logistic Corps

It was all a bit of a mess this week.  Clegg and Straw faced each other and Straw reminded me of an old ham actor, patently past his best but offered one last chance to grab the limelight.  He milked it for all it was worth and, to my mind, didn't come out of it too well, having to look to the prompt box for his lines and still fumbling and stumbling his way through.  He mistook shouting and finger-pointing as a substitute for asking strong questions

Clegg stuck to coalition policy lines - blame the previous government, mention Mandelson, Liam Byrne, talk about the structural deficit.  I know they've only been in office for nine or ten weeks but I'm becoming tired of hearing them spout the same old lines of defence - just like Labour Ministers used to do.

The first question, from Ian Mearns, Lab, Gateshead, concerned the cutting of the Building Schools for the Future programme at the cost of five schools in his area .  Osborne's face at Mearns' mention of LibDem councillors 'fearing losing their seats' was a perfect picture of pained disdain.

David Burrowes, Con, Enfield Southgate, asked the second question which concerned the extradition of Gary McKinnon.  Clegg reported that the PM had had discussions with Obama and 'that notwithstanding the gravity of the alleged crime they hoped to find a way forward'.

Then it was time for Straw: his presence raised cheers and laughter from all sides of the House.  He first asked about the the Kabul Conference & the timetable for withdrawal of our AF from Afghanistan and the remainder of his questions related to the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, which for some reason initially elicited groans.  The long-winded and shouting Straw really pushed and prolonged his questions and managed to also mention marriage tax breaks and Lord Ashcroft.

If nothing else, do watch the first ten/fifteen minutes of the exchange and see how many times both Clegg and Straw are self-referential and Bercow feels he has to intervene, in fact I heard his voice as often as I heard any other.   He almost denied Straw his 6th question too, which only added to the sense of confusion.

Questions asked by backbenchers included:

Civil liberties; Big Society; Sheltered Housing; the raising of VAT; the decline in social mobility; Disability Living Allowance; Crown Dependencies & Overseas Territories; investment in Sedgefield; detention of children (immigration); Afghanistan; funding to rural areas.

Is your MP here?

Claire Perry, Con, Devizes;  Ian Lavery, Lab, Wansbeck;  Margot James; Con, Stourbridge; Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Westminster Leader;  Phillip Lee, Con, Bracknell;  Kate Green, Lab, Stretford & Urmston;  Andrew Rosindell, Con, Romford;  Phil Wilson, Lab, Sedgefield;  Julian Huppert, LibDem, Cambridge;  Jeremy Corbyn, Lab, Islington North;  Jesse Norman, Con, Hereford & South Herefordshire.

You only need to look at the comparatively short list of backbenchers who had time to ask questions this week to realise how long the Clegg/Straw exchange lasted.

UPDATE: Here are the videos - still incomplete I'm afraid but better than nothing. Clegg's first reference to the "illegal" Iraq War comes at 6:00 in the second video  (*watch Osborne sitting beside Clegg, mouthing exactly the same phrase as he speaks - foreknowledge would indicate a planned verbal attack); the second is in response to Claire Perry's question at 0:35 in the third video. Clegg's reference to the government's pledge to close Yarlswood Detention Centre comes at 1:15 in the fourth video. Unfortunately the majority of b/benchers' questions hasn't been recorded.

H/t: Liar Politicians for the videos

UPDATE #2: Here's what the DM is saying this morning (the 22nd) about Clegg's "illegal" gaffe   "The Deputy Prime Minister plunged Westminster into chaos by stating his personal view during Prime Minister's Question Time in the Commons as if it was Government policy...leaving British troops and Tony Blair at risk of war crimes trials brought by opponents of the war."

From The Guardian[Clegg] was tonight forced to clarify his position on the Iraq war after he stood up at the dispatch box of the House of Commons and pronounced the invasion illegal. The deputy prime minister insisted he was speaking in a personal capacity, as a leading international lawyer warned that the statement by a government minister in such a formal setting could increase the chances of charges against Britain in international courts.

From The Telegraph: In an attempt to defuse the row Number 10 said that the Iraq Inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, would declare whether the invasion on March 2003 was illegal. But hours later a spokesman for the inquiry made it clear that Sir John would not make a conclusion on whether the America-led invasion, which was backed by 45,000 British personnel, was legal. However, Downing Street still chose not to distance itself from the comments as Tory MPs attacked Mr Clegg for his contentious remarks.

I think it will be a cold day in hell before Cameron again leaves the UK on a Wednesday and PMQs in the hands of Nick Clegg.


  1. “Mediocre” is the word that more than applies. It seems that Nick is not going to set anything alight. Not even the Lib Dem blogosphere. What a shame for them they will all have nothing to blog about tonight. No vide of Nick’s shining moment everywhere al la Zac Goldsmith as even they cannot polish a turd.

  2. No, he didn't sparkle, Munguin, but then everyone has such low expectations of him anyway so it's hardly disappointing. He did make those two big gaffes though - Iraq and Yarlswood so we'll see what, if anything, comes from those and how his remarks will be 'clarified' :-)


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