Wednesday, 2 November 2016

PMQs Review 2nd November 2016: The New Suit, Tiny Poppy Edition

British politics feels so dull and inconsequential at the moment doesn't it. It's not that there isn't plenty going on of course. But we are getting on with things in our rather slow and ponderous way. In America they may actually be about to elect either a woman whom the country at best tolerates but half of whom actually viscerally hate. She is corrupt and dishonest, of this there is no doubt. In any properly functioning democratic system she would not have got anywhere near the top job. But then Americans are faced with an invidious choice. Do they elect Ms Clinton or go for the other option? The other option is to appoint a man who is an acknowledged pervert, who gropes women because he can get away with it, who seemed to get involved in running beauty pageants just so that he could get close to young and beautiful women and watch them getting dressed. This is a man who is ignorant, refuses to prepare, rejects advice and reacts to criticism with furious fusillades of speckled filled rage. This man in charge of the most powerful military in world history? It's as if America were about to elect Caligula.

All of which makes the fact that parliament this week elected Keith Vaz back to a select committee seem a bit inconsequential.

Oh and Michael Heseltine once killed a dog. It's not exactly earth shattering is it?

Oh and Chauncey has a new suit. An actual suit. He manages to make it look scruffy. Marks and Spencer are consulting lawyers to see if they can make him stop wearing it.

This is the only Chauncey related news we have to report. He is the leader of the opposition who makes no news and never seems to say anything of any consequence whatsoever. But at least he doesn't make an arse of himself eating bacon sandwiches I suppose. Although he doesn't have to. He just has to show up places looking awkward and out of place and in possession of a suit that looks a bit odd. And which he had bought for him. He didn't buy it himself. It shows.

Last week's PMQs saw Chauncey make a joke. An actual joke. It was of course not a very good joke and not funny and 30 years out of date, but then what did we expect? It concerned Baldrick. This is probably because Blackadder from about 30 years ago is the last television programme of which the manhole cover fancier is aware. It should be noted that the latest edition of the Dullest Men in Britain Calendar (now also featuring dull women) is out. Chauncey isn't in it. They missed a trick there.

Labour are currently in high dudgeon about the government's refusal to order an inquiry into the so called Battle of Orgreave and its refusal to implement a recommendation of the Leveson Inquiry concerning regulation of the press. The government was entirely right on both occasions. An inquiry into something that happened 32 years ago in which nobody was killed or seriously injured, nobody was wrongly jailed and which concerns an industry now dead and which was digging up fossil fuels we are not supposed to like anymore seems pointless to the point of absurdity. Forcing newspapers and publications to sign up to a state sponsored regulator is a disgusting breach of freedom of speech and Labour politicians who call themselves progressive and liberal should be ashamed of themselves, in particular Tom Watson. Watson is a loud and large advocate of press regulation because of the so called excesses of the press. Yet it was apparently perfectly okay for him to level unproven and specious accusations of degeneracy and criminality at innocent men, largely because they were members of a rival political party. That, Mr Watson et al, is why people like you should not be allowed any ability to control or otherwise our press.

Anyway, to this week's session, the last before a one week recess.

The session started with Chauncey congratulating one of his own MPs, Conor McGinn, who recently delivered his own baby when it arrived rather more quickly than expected. He seemed to be suggesting that this was some kind of reflection on the lack of midwives, although unless he is proposing that we should have them swooping in from helicopters it's hard to see how anyone was to blame for the arrival of baby McGinn.

There was then a comical moment as the PM was confused about the arrival of a grandchild she seems to imagine was Chauncey's. The man has had a lot of wives after all. She corrected herself to much amusement, amusement with which she joined in.

Chauncey this week wanted to talk about benefits. This is the least surprising event since he stood up wearing his new suit (his only suit) sporting the world's smallest poppy. Where did he get such a tiny poppy from? Did he have it specially made? Does he know that you can purchase a normal poppy from any number of vendors dotted all around the metropolis for a fee that is entirely the choice of the purchaser? Or is he still carrying around the same outdated prejudices he had this time last year?

Chauncey has clearly been to see the new Ken Loach film, a miserablist piece of sub Dickensian polemic which bears little or no resemblance to the real world and includes a risible scene in which the protagonist feasts on a tin of cold baked beans so hungry was she. It's odd, but I have lived in or near areas of high benefit dependency and never yet have I seen rampant emaciation on the streets as one might expect given the propaganda believed by the left and on which Loach has based his career.

Not that this has stopped Chauncey who has spent his career, when not giving succour to our nation's enemies, imagining that the streets are filled with waifs wearing rags. The PM, in her slightly faltering style not dissimilar to Chauncey's own - although it should be noted that he knows what his questions are going to be and she has to extemporise - defended the Government's policies on universal credit. Last year you will recall there was a lot of fuss about this reform and of the then Chancellor's cuts, cuts that he was then forced into a U turn on. Now the same cuts are being sneaked in by sleigh of hand.

The PM made a reasonable defence of this but as usual Chauncey did not press her, did not follow up. She hit her stride later as Chauncey moved on to sanctions following his Ken Loach reference. Chauncey had alleged that there is a rising use of foodbanks in line with a rise in the use of benefit sanctions. So what, said the PM, is his solution? No sanctions? Sanctions are there for a reason, because there have to be rules. If people break the riles then there are sanctions. And has a study ever been done into the rising use of foodbanks as a consequence of rising awareness of the existence of food banks? If you feed them then they will come?

These sessions are a little more even since Mrs May took the helm. Chauncey has improved but he is still hopeless by usual standards. The PM is less assured than David Cameron, less able to conjure up a witty rejoinder, but equally less cocksure and smug. She comes across as genuine, fair and more down to earth. Chauncey is struggling to have any kind of impact on the news agenda, probably for the very good reason that he has no ideas whatever about anything. This is why he constantly berates the Government on issues like benefits but can offer no alternative. Still, at least he has a suit.

But the best moment of the day was when the PM berated football's banana republic FIFA about their inexplicable stance over poppies and armbands, which they have banned. It was something of a free hit, but it sure to hit the headlines, be a tabloid pleaser and may well see the Tories already stratospheric poll lead reach new highs. FIFA should jolly well get its own house in order said the vicar's daughter. Jolly well said. But what about the size of Chauncey's poppy?

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