The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘PMQs’

Naughty Nick Clegg

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 26, 2010 @ 09:47

Hague definitely seemed to enjoy it...

I re-watched last Wednesday’s PMQs over the weekend, especially the bit towards the end of the exchanges with Jack Straw. My main reason for doing so was to try to establish whether it was pre-planned, thought up while in the heat of the battle, or genuinely off-the-cuff thinking on his feet.

It’s my opinion that it was probably one of the first two. Nick is very precise. He sets it up well with the preceding thought about being held to account, and then delivers the punch line. It is slow, executed well, and therefore feels a little planned. He certainly doesn’t look flustered or under pressure. He looks like he had been waiting for the final question all along so he could say it with no come backs.

That degree of execution would seem to exclude it being a genuinely spontaneous remark. But who blames him? Knowing you’re coming up against such an old fraud as Jack Straw, a sly devil who’s spent his Labour career slithering in the grass, changing his mind from one day to another depending on which side is winning, and taking him on face-to-face for probably the first and only time, why miss the opportunity to stick one on him?

In reality though, it doesn’t really matter when it was thought up. It’s turned out well, and sticking by it rather than toadying away like Cabinet ministers who speak their mind usually have to do is very refreshing, and will only help us as a party if we can have a handful of similar incidents in the future.

What also gives me confidence is the giveaway reaction from the Tory front bench. William Hague and George Osborne’s instant facial reactions are priceless and suggest they didn’t know it was coming. Hague looks like he’s saying, “Shit!” in his head, while Osborne is calculating what the right response is and ends up looking rather amused. Sadly, we don’t see why he starts pointing at the other side. Watch for yourself.

We need to see a few more little “blunders” like this, just pushing the envelope of collective responsibility every now and again. The Tories need to be kept on their toes that we are going to keep pressing for what we believe in, and we’re going to feel brave enough to go public with our point of view from time to time. The tactic will work even better when we have a carefully crafted alternative policy which we know has public support. One for Lib Dem HQ to mull over, I think.

It’s the only way we’re going to stay distinctive amidst the coalition morass.


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The Strains Of Collective Government

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 22, 2010 @ 11:43

Pointing the finger, the cheeky bugger...

Watching last yesterday’s PMQs last night I was struck by the way Nick Clegg was behaving. He was straining hard to stick to the line of collective government, as is required by the constitutional conventions of this country.

And let me just add, they are sensible conventions, and are even more essential in a coalition. After all, Nick Clegg, just because it was his moment at the despatch box, couldn’t exactly go off on one about his own personal priorities and reverse carefully crafted government policy as agreed by various coalition committees on an ongoing basis.

But then again, why shouldn’t he? After all, as Paul Waugh has pointed out, other members of the government and the coalition parties feel free to go off the beaten track just a little.

So Cleggy did indeed decide to join them.

In truth, I don’t blame him. Faced by the appalling Jack Straw, who delivered a truly awful PMQs performance, something must have stirred in Nick Clegg. You could see his level of frustration rising in each subsequent answer. But not just that, a rather passionate anger at Labour’s record.

Jack Straw, during the Iraq War debacle, became something of a poster child for Labour’s pre-war prevarication, dithering, moveable justifications, legalese argument, ludicrous over-analysis and pretentious fake morality. Clearly, Nick Clegg had been paying attention during that time, and also to Jack Straw’s past and present illiberalism as a member of the government.

On his final trip to answer another Straw “question”, Nick just couldn’t resist

We may have to wait for his memoirs, but perhaps one day he will account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Well! That really did set the cat amongst the pigeons. So much for collective responsibility. The Tories next to him winced. The House murmured. Did he really just say that?

To those of us who opposed the Iraq War from day one, it was a truly joyous moment. Nick Clegg, from the government benches, standing at the despatch box, calling the Iraq War for what it was.

Sadly though, it was just a slip, and the press office immediately issued a clarification that he was “speaking in a personal capacity”. You can bet your bottom dollar that never again will a government member call the Iraq War illegal in full, in public, and very much on the permanent record.

But it was still fun to watch, and though collective responsibility is a source of exasperation to many – “why can’t they just say what they believe?” – its overall use is more of a positive than a negative, especially in a media age where every little slip is scrutinised to the nth degree.

Still, good on you, Nick!

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PMQs: To Attend Or Not To Attend?

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 3, 2010 @ 10:07

Clegg did sit on Cameron's right, honest! This is just an older picture...

Yesterday’s first Coalition PMQs provided much grist to the sketchwriters’ mills. And it also illustrated just how Labour intends to proceed taking on the cosy coalition.

After yesterday, the big dilemma for Nick Clegg will be to decide whether he should attend or not. Yes, it’s a coalition, and it would look mighty suspicious if Clegg was never supporting the Prime Minister, but it would also look mighty suspicious if he never left Cameron’s side.

The problem is this: the Labour Party’s leader is going to bring up, during one of their questions each week, a topic that potentially splits the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. If Nick Clegg is there all the time, the goal will be to make him look stupid.

Hattie tried that yesterday, with her discussion on the comedy married couple’s tax allowance. Nick Clegg sat through it with the same expression on his face. No nods. No shakes. No smiles. No smirks. Nothing. Just that neutral expression he has got down to a T.

Yesterday, he managed to avoid giving the game away and revealing his disagreement with David Cameron. Or, at least, I hope it’s still a disagreement.

But we’re only human.

At some point the body language will slip. The pundits will analyse these exchanges to death – even more than usual – looking for the merest curled lip or furrowed brow to indicate Clegg is feeling a little uncomfortable. That’s not going to be healthy for the coalition.

And it’s only going to get worse. Right now there is a comprehensive agreement outlining where the parties agree to disagree. All current issues are covered, and so they can be deflected by saying that Harriet is just trying to play the “old politics” of division.

But as time goes by, new issues will emerge, and Cameron and Clegg will not agree on everything. At least, I hope they won’t. Then Harriet, or whoever the new Labour leader is, will come forward with quotes from rebellious “senior Lib Dem sources” and make Clegg and Cameron squirm.

Clegg would be wise not to make sitting at Cameron’s right hand a regular fixture. Appearing too close to Cameron compromises the Lib Dems independence. But being too distant would undermine the tentative working relationship they have.

The sensible thing would be for Clegg to sit at Cameron’s side no more than 50% of the time, and possibly as low as 25%. It is just too easy for Labour, otherwise.

Politics in the media age, eh…

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Labour’s Last Budget. For Now.

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 24, 2010 @ 11:43

The end of Darling, perhaps? The possibilities of the next few months are varied and exciting!

So here we are again. Another non-eventful Budget Day. After all, with comprehensive spending rounds, ordinary spending reviews, pre-Budget Reports and endless briefing and leaking, hardly any of what we hear today will be a surprise.

To fill the void, the networks have to do something. Invariably, this is endless speculation, combined with the classic “let’s visit a marginal constituency and do some random vox pops”. And, naturally, the “average family” will have their numbers crunched, and discover that the rise in price of wine is going to plunge them into deficit for financial year 10/11.

That’s all I’ve witnessed so far, in my flicking between BBC and Sky News. And now, the liveblog, as it happened, in chronological order…

11:42 – BBC talking to someone who set up business during a recession. Madness, said the reporter. Sounds about right, from my experience!

11:45 – Kay Burley emoting on Sky News as she feeds the ducks. Tragic.

11:53 – thoughts now turning to PMQs. David Cameron has an open goal today with the latest Labour sleaze allegations. But Brown will deflect because of the sole dodgy Tory in the mix. And then accuse him of not talking about policy. Net result will be lots of sound bites, lots of guffawing, lots of interventions from Mr Speaker… but no change in the polls. No one cares.

11:57 – Sky News in analysis mode. BBC News in “emotive strings over graphics mode” showing the economic changes since 1997. Guess which one I’ve got on…

12:01 – PMQs underway with the usual tributes to the fallen. That’s the cue to switch to BBC Parliament for uninterrupted coverage. I find the “commentary” interjections on BBC2 rather irritating.

12:02 – this faff over defence spending is appallingly dull. Inter-year spending, who cares. The general trend is indeed a real terms rise. Splitting hairs from politicians, what a surprise.

12:05 – Cameron begins with a tedious joke about today’s civil servants strike. This stuff doesn’t resonate, as we all know, but we do it anyway.

12:06 – gold sales for question 2. Pretty hard to know where the top of the market is. I suspect we can go back centuries and work out where gold sales lost the country money. Fucking load of rubbish.

12:07 – Cameron persists, refocusing on Labour trying to cover up their incompetence. Better line, but Brown deflects again.

12:09 – Question 4, Cameron carrying on. He should have given up. There must be other issues to talk about. Oh my.

12:10 – Question 5, Cameron delivering the soundbites, the same things he’s repeated for years now. Another joke. Killing time. No question. Brown gets his chance to redeliver every sound bite he’s already said about Labour’s “success” over the years. Cameron has lost badly here. No Question 6? Maybe I miscounted…

12:12 – Nick Clegg gets his turn. Going on political corruption, the great elephant in the room. Accusing the others of blocking reform. Brown going softly. He knows what the polls are saying. Hung parliament, anyone?

12:13 – Clegg’s second go is the laundry list of failed attempts to remove corruption. Silly Tory MPs continue shouting about “Michael Brown” as they have for weeks now. Yes, let’s fling shit and ignore the failures of this Parliament.

12:15 – whip’s handout questions shall now commence.

12:17 – Gordon Brown can’t wait to be remembered for the result of the next election, apparently. I share his excitement about what lies ahead!

12:19 – Brown repeats his warning about the poor behaviour of the Tories regarding the BA cabin crew strike. It’s not becoming of a future government. No one wants another government antagonising the unions.

12:20 – sounds like mephedrone is to be banned before the election. Hmm…

12:23 – it’s curious how Bob Spink has become a real backer of Gordon Brown since his departure from the Tory Party.

12:27 – PMQs petering out. Alistair Darling is itching to go…

12:30 – Ian Paisley getting a swansong, in which he even referred to Norn Iron as “the North of Ireland”. Gerry Adams would be pleased. Unless I misheard again. Could hear a pindrop in the House. Brown offers glowing tribute.

12:32 – Budget underway. Speaker makes way for the Chairman of Ways and Means. Hurrah.

12:34 – Alistair Darling giving himself and his government a pat on the back for guiding the economy through and out of recession. This is going to be the Labour line in the election.

12:35 – Darling’s introduction promises a few billion of goodies.

12:37 – Budget Days are all about narrative. Darling has just set out his stall as to how the British economy has weathered the storm. No measures announced yet.

12:39 – it is disappointing that the government will not pledge to keep one of the banks we own in public hands. The sector needs to be kept honest. Darling pledges any future sell offs will recoup all money invested. That was always going to be the case, but the headlines have always been about what the government was “losing” by nationalising these banks.

12:42 – Darling sticking to his guns on an international tax agreement on banking. Attacking the Tory line of Britain doing it unilaterally. Darling is right, but will the agreement happen?

12:45 – Darling using this free airtime as a chance to deliver a party political broadcast. Politicians never miss an opportunity, do they.

12:47 – joyous talk about automatic stablisers, without the word being mentioned. Lots of tinkering with tax credits underway. Talk of retirement age limits and young people’s unemployment. Hmm.

12:49 – the numbers are flowing thick and fast now. These minor little tinkerings don’t sound much, but they are going to make a difference to the things Labour can say in the campaign. Stamp duty is the big change here. First time buyers getting a big help…

12:51 – Labour backbenches enjoying the stamp duty change, with a redistribution of the tax on houses over £1m. Tories enjoying the fact that the policy has been stolen from them. ISAs now getting some adjustments to encourage more saving.

12:52 – the forecasts, what everyone wants to hear. How optimistic is the pessimistic Darling going to be? Answer: not very. A minor adjustment to next year. This year unchanged. The future is bright, says the Chancellor. Well, he didn’t, but he could have.

12:55 – now the borrowing numbers. Darling talks about the greater tax take he’s enjoyed lately. Borrowing forecast this year down. Lots of jeers, naturally; these numbers are still high.

12:57 – still many years of borrowing to come. Darling pledges Labour will indeed achieve the deficit halving pledge in the next several years. But there’s no numbers yet as to how on Earth this deficit cut is achieved. Spending cuts, for sure. But he’s not admitting it. Tory frontbench frantically crunching numbers for their response.

13:00 – spending cuts mentioned. Of course, no cutting “now”, which implies lots of cutting later. It has to be, in order to achieve the deficit reduction strategy.

13:01 – tax rises being mentioned, but they’ve all been announced before. Darling insisting these tax rises are not “ideological”. “Those who have benefited the most from the growth should now contribute” – or words to that effect.

13:02 – “sin tax” changes underway. Alcohol and cigarettes taking a little pounding, but particularly cider. Put the Scrumpy Jack away.

13:03 – inheritance tax thresholds to be frozen for the next four years. Very good. Darling clearly aiming that one at the Tories.

13:06 – Darling is apparently going to deliver a range of goodies in the public services over the next few years. But no real cuts to the budgets have been announced. This is voodoo economics.

13:07 – Darling is deferring most of the tough decision to after the election, in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The only thing he’s prepared to talk about is “efficiency savings” and waste. The magic bullet. It’ll never happen.

13:09 – Lots of public sector staff in jeopardy; definitely going to be moved out of London, at least. The bad part about it: endless civil service jaunts to London at taxpayer’s expense for “meetings”. A wave of privatisations is to begin too, by the sounds of it.

13:11 – now discussing growth, and how that will help cure all our financial woes. But just how much consumption can the world sustain? Bye bye, environment.

13:13 – goodies for investing in businesses. A public “investment bank” by the sounds of it. Sounds a bit like a Lib Dem idea, except I think we wanted it to be “green”.

13:18 – lots more investment in public infrastructure underway. That’s a lot of money. But it’s essential, really, if we’re to have any hope of sustaining economic growth in the future. Good old cost-benefit analysis.

13:20 – the broadband tax is confirmed.

13:21 – not a long Budget speech, by any means, but we’re now into the usual ending territory of recent years. But no signs of a finish yet.

13:22 – special attention going to be paid to the computer games sector. That is impressive; the pols have spotted how much money this sector could make the economy through its massive exporting (USA, Far East, Europe). They never miss a trick, do they.

13:24 – Darling insists universities are going to foot the bill for the rising amount of students.

13:26 – Ashcroft is implied as Darling talks about tax avoidance/evasion. Labour benches loving it, especially an agreement with Belize on tax dodging. Cameron/Osborne refusing to look up from their furious scribbling. Labour MPs very excited, begging for more.

13:29 – creeping up to an hour, and Darling is releasing the goodies now, pension increases, child tax credits, personal tax allowances for the old dears (who vote) going up, Winter Fuel payment to be sustained at the higher levels of recent years. We Love Pensioners! Especially Those Who Vote Labour!

13:30 – think it’s ending, with more political posturing. Laying out the election choice. Think Darling has done a decent job, but we’ll see what Osborne has to say…

13:32 – Tories in feisty mood. Cameron taking credit for the stamp duty cut.

13:33 – Cameron, freed from the shackles of having to ask questions, is going on the big messages. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t bother at PMQs.

13:35 – going at a rate of knots. Spending, cuts, deficits, debt, bloat, taxes, Britain closed for business. Cameron calling for an election to put Labour out of their misery.

13:36 – Cameron’s Budget Bashing is well underway. The numbers they’ve been scribbling down are all flowing out. It’s all good for the cameras, but is anyone listening? The end soundbites are what we’re after. They will indicate where we’re going in the next six weeks…

13:39 – Tories are cheered up by Cameron’s jokes. But not by the numbers. Feigned indignation all round.

13:40 – a few years ago Cameron did a Budget response that was impetuous and arrogant. This is reminding me of it.

13:41 – Cameron hurling allegations at Brown and Darling about their forthcoming consultancy fees. Childish.

13:43 – Tories planning on giving more power to quangos, a new one to manage budgeting forecasts. Oh dear.

13:45 – here come the soundbites. They’re being rattled off at incredible speed. Lots of one-liners too. I think William Hague wrote this Budget response.

13:46 – Cameron promising a radical change of direction. New leadership, new energy… stirring stuff to the Tory benches. It’s not gonna be that easy for him.

13:47 – Clegg’s turn. A reminder of the government’s failure. BBC and Sky News have abandoned Mr Clegg’s response, to be shown later. Isn’t it just as well the coverage rules change when the election begins?

13:49 – Clegg pointing out the lack of detail on spending cuts. Spot on.

13:50 – Clegg won’t spend on a “like for like” replacement of Trident. That’s not the same as not spending on a nuclear ‘deterrent’ at all.

13:53 – 8m economically inactive, says Clegg. Does that include people like me, able to sit around writing about a Budget that no one cares about, to no readers? 🙂

13:55 – Clegg rattling through his statement too. Perhaps he’s worked out no one is watching.

13:57 – the message on tax thresholds is going to be the Lib Dems’ big message at the election. Fairness to be the central idea. I just hope it’s all fully costed, or it will unravel very quickly at a time when the nation will be paying the most attention to us.

13:58 – Clegg concludes, “this Budget is the old politics”. Maybe. And there was the sound bite for the news programs, if they ever show it.

14:01 – Mandy in his usual form on BBC News. Looking forward to outlining his package of savings, it seems.

14:03 – Mandy and Iain Duncan Smith arguing very forcefully with each other. Charles Kennedy trying to pin down Mandelson, but he’s a slippery character…

14:05 – BBC journos enjoying tearing the fine detail of the Budget apart. This is going to happen over the next few days; can Labour survive it? Previous Budget experience would suggest not.

14:08 – Nick Robinson emphasising the pointlessness of this Budget. Hey, I told you that at the start of this post!

14:17 – with the BBC and Sky News now in full pointlessness mode, regarding how the Budget affects YOU and what your tweets have to say about it, that seems a good point to conclude.

Overall, the whole damn thing might as well have been a pre-recorded election statement. Budgets don’t really have the allure they used to. No major goodies, but a few things to talk about. Meanwhile, the Tories and Lib Dems will be able to carry on hammering their usual messages.

Roll on May 6.

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Posted by The Futility Monster on January 30, 2010 @ 10:10

The Republicans gave Obama this document of "solutions" to read. In response, he shoved it up their arses and tore them a new one. Nice man.

… stands for President Obama’s Questions, of course.

Apologies for yet another American politics post, but I can’t let this one go by uncommented.

The liberal blog networks are alight at the moment because yesterday President Obama walked right into the lion’s den and held a “question time” at the House Republican Retreat. Better still, the whole thing was recorded and televised.

I’ve watched the whole thing – you should too –  because it truly is the mother of all smackdowns, so much so that there are rumours around that the Republicans are regretting agreeing that it should be televised.

One by one, Obama politely takes apart the myths, lies and outright bullshit that the Republicans have spouted on every issue they threw at him. In various parts, he directly mocks the unbelievable way in which issues such as healthcare have been spun by the GOP machine.

But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.  No, I mean, that’s how you guys — (applause) — that’s how you guys presented it.

What can we learn from this?

Liberals across the nation are suggesting that this becomes a regular feature. They look at our Prime Minister’s Questions with awe. They don’t understand why politicans would subject themselves to that bearpit. They examine it through their political culture, and think how can someone be so disrespectful to their leader – forgetting, of course, that our Prime Minister is merely a chief executive, with a separate head of state who everyone (allegedly) looks up to.

Obama is clearly intelligent enough to be able to handle such a system; and not a single toadying question handed out by a friendly party whip in sight. And, in truth, there’s no real reason why Obama couldn’t repeat this on a regular basis, setting a very strong precedent for any future president. After all, the American system is all about checks and balances. What greater check than to see the President being held to account by the Congress?

It would be a fantastic way of directly calling out smears and obstructionism, right to their faces. Obama has such a way with words that he could do it in such a way that is extraordinarily respectful, yet effective. No other President in recent history would be able to handle such an environment on a regular basis. Facing an unelected, unaccountable press corps is one thing. Facing fully mandated, legitimised, elected opposition is another.

Maybe it’s high time for the Americans to think about it.

But somehow I don’t think Republicans will be all too keen on the idea any more…

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Brown On The Run. Again.

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 27, 2010 @ 09:58

Says it all...

The toys-out-of-pram throwing in Northern Ireland has been deemed sufficiently serious by Gordon Brown to miss yet another Prime Minister’s Questions.

I don’t wish to belittle the seriousness of the situation in Norn Iron, but let’s face it, we’re hardly on the brink of a sudden return to paramilitary warfare. Naturally, a little of that is still going on anyway, but should the talks break up today anyway without agreement, then Brown not only looks a fool, but all that will happen is that Stormont goes into neutral and the world keeps turning.

The big problem with the NI situation is that no one wants to face their electorates. The parties are actually all desperate to see an agreement come together, because they know if they don’t the most likely course of action is that Martin McGuinness will resign, forcing an election. And that could be catastrophic for the DUP while they are currently under pressure from hardliners…

For one reason or another, everyone is afraid of democracy and being held to account.

That sounds awfully familiar to me…

Today, it means that we once more have to put up with Harriet Harman as Brown’s stand-in. Which probably means a little Wiliam Hague and some Vince Cable too. It’s not a bad line-up of deputies really, but the trouble is that it happens all too often. It’s remarkable how Brown finds reasons to disappear on Wednesdays, and if I had nothing better to do I’d be going through all the Hansards since his elevation to power to prove my point!

Fact is – and we’ve all said this before at some point – that Brown just isn’t cut out for the demands on the modern politician. Cameras. Questions. Interrogations. Press conferences. Sounding good. Looking good. Charisma. Slick presentation. He can’t do any of them well, and his excuse is to slope off, trying to look important on the world stage instead.

Somehow, I think I might just make sure I’m busy at 12 noon today. I’m sure I won’t miss anything…

UPDATE (12 noon): apparently Brown is now leaving NI before a deal has been reached (if a deal can be reached at all). So the point was…

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Speaker Bercow’s First PMQs

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 24, 2009 @ 11:57

A View from the Bearpit

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.

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