Friday 9 July 2010

Caption Competition: Ken Clarke

That really is Ken Clarke back in 1976...

Thursday 8 July 2010

Gloria De Piero, MP for somewhere

David Miliband has been so taken with the backing he received from Gloria De Piero MP that one of his supporters posted a lovely blog piece about her on his leadership campaign site.

It’s tough being a Labour Party member in a sea of blue and there is sometimes the suspicion we are used as fund-raising and support fodder for nearby marginals at the expense of developing our own support.

We therefore had mixed feelings when we were fortunate enough to arrange for Gloria De Piero, newly elected MP for Mansfield, to come to Chelmsford to support David Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership. A standing audience waited our honoured guest with some anticipation!

Gloria spoke passionately in favour of David, his love of the Labour Party, his personal “manifesto” and his policy ambitions.

Problem is Gloria is MP for Ashfield, not Mansfield. I admit Alan Meale (left), the real Mansfield MP, is a pretty fellow. But I don’t think there’s enough of a resemblance to merit the mistake.

Must have been work experience week at the DfE...

Why is John Bercow trying to kill the Commons?

John Bercow took the Speaker’s chair in the wake of the expenses scandal – having promised to give Parliament back to the people.

But he seems to be a little misguided over what that means.

In his speech to the Centre for Parliamentary Studies yesterday he called PMQs the “shop window” of the Commons and said that because it dominated media coverage and drew viewers, the impression set was crucial.

That led him to the conclusion that it had to change with less “abuse” and more “scrutiny”. PMQs should be less dominated by the leaders, more for backbenchers and there should be fewer planted questions, he said.

The thing is, what Bercow calls abuse others might well call scrutiny. Yes, it’s not picking over the fine detail of policy, but that is work for committees.

The Commons is a forum with free flowing debate at its very core.

If people want to watch that heavy sort of scrutiny they can watch committees on BBC Parliament which is free to view, but I’m pretty sure people aren’t rushing to watch those.

The question is this – If Politician A asks a tough question in a clever way that stumps Politician B and therefore makes him look silly, is that abuse or does it simply show that Politician A had a very good point?

PMQs is the “shop window”, but that is not some sort of coincidence, it is not chance that people happen to be in front of their TVs at noon every Wednesday.

It’s the shop window of Parliament because of the goods on show, because people want to watch that high speed, clever, knock-about debate – because there is demand for it.

It does touch on key policy, but without getting too heavy and gives a wider mass audience – which otherwise might not watch any politics at all – a way to connect with it.

It is dominated by the leaders, but that is because that’s what people are tuning in to see – the PM in PMQs stands for Prime Minister.

The issue over planted questions is a valid one. But until you get rid of party patronage, deconstruct the whips system and remove the executive from the Commons, that’s not going to change.

Bercow should stop tinkering around with the one thing that attracts mass-interest in the daily grind of British politics.

He also made a point about sound bites, claiming there were far too many. He then went on to say of PMQs: "If it is scrutiny at all, then it is scrutiny by screech."

Monday 5 July 2010

Lord of the pies

While perusing details of the week ahead I noticed that there are a couple of new arrivals in the House of Lords this week.

John “Two Jags” Prescott and former Labour minister Quentin Davies will be introduced to the upper House on Thursday.

If you can’t remember who Davies is think bell tower renovation on expenses. I’m sure you know who Prescott is, but just in case this is a neat opportunity to embed this video…

Prezza in the Lords could be a sketch writer’s dream, hope he lives up to it…