The PMQs 2011 guide for the punters: What you didn't miss
As 2011 draws to a close, it is time to produce one of those generic 'A year in politics' articles, where the winners and losers are announced, the highs and lows analysed again, and everyone asks, once more, whether the AV referendum was really worth the price the Liberal Democrats paid for it.
For most people, politics is something that happens to other people. Not for them the weekly rough and tumble of Prime Minister’s Questions, the endless debates about Ed Miliband’s hand gestures, David Cameron’s witty ripostes, or whether the public do or don’t like the age old tradition of grown men and women howling at each other across the Chamber like a bunch of overgrown kids who’ve been let at the blue Smarties. Today, therefore, I will be writing the PMQ script for 2011, as it happened every week, for those with better things to do with their lunchbreak than streaming the Parliament channel.
To set the scene: it’s any given Wednesday at 12pm in the Chamber of the House of Commons. Ed Miliband gets to ask six questions, but I’ve cut these down to three; partly for artistic reasons, but mainly because life’s too short.
Mr Speaker: Order! Questions to the Prime Minister. Mr Conservative Plant!
Conservative Plant: Question number one, Mr Speaker.
Prime Minister: Today I had meetings with Ministerial colleagues and others. I will have further such meetings later today.
Conservative Plant: Would the Prime Minister agree with me that the policy he has announced this week will save Britain from the catastrophic legacy of the last failed Labour Government?
Prime Minister: I agree with my Hon. friend, who was threatened with being made Norman Baker’s PPS if he didn’t ask the question I wanted. I do agree that this policy will save Britain and I think it is time for the party opposite to apologise to this House and the nation for getting us into this mess in the first place.
[Wild cheers from the Conservatives, and heckles from Labour. The Speaker calls the Leader of the Opposition]
Ed Miliband: Does the Prime Minister agree with this article written by an economic expert in a newspaper that shares my broad outlook that his fiscal policy is totally wrong?
Prime Minister: If we’re talking about articles that support the Government’s policy but not the Opposition’s failed economic plan – no, no – I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you [laughs]. I have here ...
[Interruption. Heckling reaches levels where nobody can be heard]
Mr Speaker: Order! ORDER! I want to hear the Prime Minister. No, ORDER!
[House of Commons switchboard jammed by calls from the public; fifty percent complain that they like the shouting and the Speaker interrupts too much, fifty percent praise the Speaker for keeping the House in order. All claim they represent the majority opinion]
Prime Minister: Thank you Mr Speaker. If we are discussing dissent about policy – no – I’ll tell him. Perhaps he hasn’t heard this comment made the other day: [Cameron proceeds to read a quote out of context]. Who said that? HIS OWN BROTHER!
Ed Miliband: [Adopts his “more in sadness than in anger” face] It’s the same old tactics from a Government that has failed the on the economy and failed the British people. He knows it, the public know it, so when is he going to accept responsibility and say, “I got it wrong”?
[Labour cheers. Ed Balls waves a piece of paper at the Tory front bench, who respond in a manner similar to Bill Cash MP at a Continental Cheese Convention]
Prime Minister: I will take no lectures from the party opposite on the economy, as it was the failed policies of the last Labour Government that got us into this situation in the first place. What is their plan to get us out of the mess they created? They don’t have one!
Mr Speaker: Ms Labour Intake 2010.
[The House quietens down as if, instinctively, it knows something dull is about to happen]
Ms Labour Intake 2010: Would the Prime Minister like to comment on the shocking statistic out today that my constituents in Boringwold-on-Sea now have to wait an extra four weeks for operations to remove ingrowing toenails? Would he not agree that this is proof that the Coalition government cannot be trusted on the NHS?
[A few half-hearted “hear hears” from Labour MPs going through the motions]
Prime Minister: No, I do not agree. The fact is that this Government is committed to the NHS and it is us, not the party opposite, who will save it from the failed economic policies of the last Labour Government!
[Ms Labour Intake 2010 immediately tweets, “Cameron had no response to my question about my constituents. But I shall continue to work hard for you all!” and texts her staff to draft a press release for the local paper]
Mr Speaker: Mr Ed Miliband!
Ed Miliband: Last week the Prime Minister said X but in October he said Y. Which is it?
[Sits down to a volley of mock-surprised “ooooooh’s” from behind him, directed at the Coalition.
Prime Minister: YOUR BROTHER!
[Labour howls and Tory jeers drown out the Prime Minister]
Mr Speaker: Order! ORDER! OR-DER! The Rt Hon. gentleman [looking severely at the Coalition front bench] will calm down, before he does himself an injury. No, ORDER!
[House of Commons switchboard jammed by calls from the public; fifty percent of whom call the Speaker a “nuLiarbore stooge” whilst the other fifty percent commend him for trying to keep the kids in order. All claim they represent the majority opinion]
Mr Speaker: Mr Peter Bone!
Peter Bone MP: I hope the Prime Minister will agree with Mrs Bone.
Prime Minister: Indeed I do.
[Raucous laughter at Parliamentary in-joke. The punters: baffled]
Dennis Skinner: Is it not the case ... ninth generation miner ... down t’pit with nowt to sustain us but tea made of coal ... Bullingdon Club ... Tory ponces.
Prime Minister: Whatevs.
Mr Speaker: Order, order! Ten Minute Rule Motion, Mr John Mann. Again. Will Members leaving the Chamber please do so QUICKLY and QUIETLY.
All that remains is for the political guests on the Daily Politics and entire Twittersphere to all call it conclusively for their leader of choice and voila! That saved you a couple of hours of your life, didn’t it?