A View from the Bearpit
The event fills me with such trepidation and excitement that I think it’s even worth liveblogging it…
11:54am – the tension is building up by the customary entry into the Guess The Year competition on the Daily Politics. I’ve never win, and I doubt I ever will, though I don’t think I’ve ever got an entry wrong. Thanks Wikipedia.
(PS: today’s answer is 1983)
11:58am – Nick Robinson spinning on behalf of Bercow that he’s going to issue a smackdown on long questions and responses. Apparently we’re also going to get a statement from Bercow afterwards, which is exciting.
12:00 – the customary condolences to fallen soldiers…
12:01 pm – Patrick Hall MP asks about housing and mortgage finance. No sign of a question, house getting restless. Bercow speeds him up. Brown delivers the tractor statistics.
12:02pm – Cameron onto his feet – usual insult about planted questions (as if he won’t be doing it when he’s in power). Cameron leads on the budget spending figures again. More tractor statistics in response.
12:04pm – Cameron Round 2 “it’s just not good enough”. Bercow not interested so far, despite the lack of questions. Brown continues along the same path. The House is fairly well behaved apart from the odd theatrical “Oooooh!”, not much for Bercow to sink his teeth into.
12:06pm – Cameron Round 3 – persisting with the discussion of the figures. A total waste of time in my opinion. No actual question. You can make Brown look silly with this stuff, but I think it goes over the head of the general public. It’s going over my head, in truth.
12:07pm – Cameron Round 4 – and more of the same. Sick of hearing the words “capital expenditure” now. Brown gives the same reply, same old tired soundbites. Same old figures. Highest number of wig sales since 1438, etc, etc. Boring.
12:08pm – Cameron Round 5 – moves on to attacking the Chancellor and the divide between Alistair Darling and Brown. No real questions from Cameron. Bercow is clearly going to let PMQs go about the same way as far as the party leaders are concerned. Cameron dithering until he delivers his One O’Clock News line in Round 6. Same from Brown too. Yawn.
12:10pm – Bercow tells the House to shut it: “the public don’t like it, and neither do I”. Good…
12:11pm – Cameron Round 6, no question, just anger, surprisingly no line for the media. Brown delivers his instead. Seemed a bit petulant from Cameron, to be honest. Bercow tells Michael “Wig” Fabricant to calm down…
12:12pm – Paul Farrelly MP asks about the Iraq Inquiry. Brown repeats an argument from last week. Or was it two weeks ago? Nothing new here, despite the “helpful” question.
12:13pm – Nick Clegg’s turn… going on how Brown makes bad judgements and ends up having to back down. Looking for a reverse on public spending. Unusual from Clegg. I’m not quite sure what point he was making.
12:14pm – Bercow telling the House to shut up. Clegg tries again, clarifies it’s too much spending he’s worried about. Various statements about what he would cut. Brown has no equivalent cuts lined up. There goes the economy.
12:15pm – Jim Cunningham MP asks about the implications of a 10% cut in spending on public sector pensions. The questions are so obviously handed out by the whips that it’s embarrassing.
12:16pm – James Duddridge tries to find out if Damien McBride is still hanging behind the scenes. Brown gets angry. Ashok Kumar then asks about steel-making in the North East. Clearly another plant so Brown can tell us all how much work he’s doing. House very subdued. Or are they bored?
12:17pm – Daniel Kawczynski is annoyed about Brown insulting the Polish Law and Justice Party. Brown not interested.
12:18pm – Tom Clarke asks about Burma. One of Speaker Bercow’s favourite topics. He’ll be pleased.
12:19pm – anyone know how far down the order paper we are? Peter Bone asks about unemployment in his constituency. Brown says the figures justify his policies to spend, spend, spend.
12:20pm – Martin Salter, Bercow’s campaign manager tells the House needs to get behind Bercow. He’s very happy with Hattie Harman’s proposal for jailing MPs, and has an amendment to discuss. It’s all very technical, the public are no doubt lost.
12:21pm – Bob Russell says the University of Essex is very proud of their new Speaker, alma mater of that parish. Meanwhile, Bob asks about local educational issues. Brown reads out his briefing…
12:22pm – Barry Gardiner steps into a trap, saying the Rozzers have been giving him grief. Silly man. Oh no, the Rozzers were just calling him to tell him about the wonderful drops in crime! Of course. Then he tries a silly bit of wordplay. Bercow gets fed up and sits him down so Brown can deliver the pre-prepared answer.
12:23pm – Mark Harper tells the Prime Minister to support ending the stigma against people with mental health problems. “It’s a serious problem” says Brown.
12:24pm – Jim Dobbin on another constituency education issue. The funding crisis in the FE sector, which apparently doesn’t exist according to Brown. Spend, spend, spend!
12:25pm – Phil Willis is concerned about universities, their rising rolls, and a lack of investment. Brown loves this one, as everyone in university won’t show up on the unemployment figures.
12:26pm - Linda Gilroy is very excited about water metering. Hardly setting the nation on fire, if you’ll excuse the pun. Bercow has had very little to do. The House is almost too well behaved.
12:27pm – Paul Beresford wants the government to spend, spend, spend on Equitable Life! What is the Tory policy on this, I wonder? Brown, in an unusual move, is not going to commit to spending. How odd.
12:28pm - David Crausby hopes no public spending cuts happen in defence spending. Bercow tells him to sit down – “the PM doesn’t have to concern himself with opposition policy”. Good one. Brown, of course, is delighted with his spending on defence.
12:29pm – Julian Brazier on another defence issue, Afghanistan needs reinforcement, he says. Brown says it has been reinforced. Of course. Phil Wilson then delivers another prepared question on the Tories new European grouping, so Brown can deliver his usual reply. Bercow tells them to shut up, but doesn’t stop Brown wittering on.
12:30pm – Susan Kramer asks about war crimes in Sri Lanka. Brown is happy to oblige with all the wonderful work he’s done on the international stage. Are we going to finish on time? Yes we are…
Bercow has three points to make
1) Ministers must make key policy statements to the House first
2) Statements: frontbenchers stick to alloted times, backbenchers confine themselves to one brief supplementary question. Same too for ministers’ replies.
3) Those speaking in the Chamber will be heard. “Calm, reasoned debate” is needed.
Points of Order… the Tories aren’t happy that there has been some leaking, apparently, to newspapers ahead of Parliament finding out first, on the issue of cybersecurity. Bercow is not happy – says point 1 has been breached.
Another point of order… same topic, point 1 has been breached. Bercow is not again not happy, gives the Treasury bench a ticking off. But wants to see how it goes first.
Another point of order… Evan Harris regarding a select committee to change the procedures of the House. He’s not happy with the limited terms of reference. Trying to get the Speaker to agree that more scrutiny of Bills is needed. Bercow won’t be drawn into it. Shame.
Another… Norman Baker is not happy about ministers of the Crown in the “other place”. Will he allow them to be questioned in the Commons? Needs a rule change, says Bercow… but implies he support it. Except he can’t.
And that’s it. We’re done.
Overall – a pretty easy ride for the new Speaker. Nothing controversial. The House pretty well behaved. No major rulings required. Questions seemed to be fairly brisk. In fact, now that I’m able to Speaker Bercow managed to get through almost all those on the Order Paper. But that broadly depends on how much time Cameron and Clegg take up, and Brown in his replies.
Summary: move on, nothing to see here.