Category Archives: Parliament

Skinner 1, SNP 0

Perhaps Scottish Labour could requisition the services of Dennis Skinner, the "Beast of Bolsover".  The parliamentary veteran and plain speaker has defeated them in their first attempt to remove him from the seat he's been occupying for 45 years or so.  These SNP types, for all of their bread and chip suppers on the terrace and their take-over of Labour's favourite bar, are wimps after all.

Of course this is all rather arcane and of no significance to the average voter whatsoever.  But the increasing issue of the 56 SNP MPs is this.  What will all these MPs actually do, given that most of the issues affecting their constituents are dealt with now by the MSPs of the Scottish Parliament?  What is the British taxpayer awarding them £67,000 for?

Time to move on with devolution and save at least £3,752,000 a year straight off.

Commons comedy, courtesy of the Speccie’s sketchwriter

There is a long history - dating all the way back to the 1970s in its modern form - of Commons sketch writing, which is to say reporting the proceedings of the House of Commons and our noble representatives as they sit debating our best interests within it, and doing so in a humorous fashion.  Andrew Alexander possibly started it in the modern newspapers, Frank Johnson and Edward Pearce have been masters of the art, and Quentin Letts keeps the satirical bile flowing today, amongst others.  It's almost as if these collected writers believe that either the Commons isn't funny enough on its own merits, or that the ludicrous pomposity of the inhabitants we have sent there needs exposing on a regular basis.

There is no better forum for such scathing wit than the weekly Prime Minister's Questions.  I'm not sure whether this regular bun fight has ever provided much illumination, but it has certainly been operating several stages below the average playground brawl in the hands of the current incumbent and his opposite number.  And Cameron was the man who once piously announced he would do away with "Punch and Judy" politics.  Honestly.  Politicians and their promises.

Anyway, I mention all this, in a rather long-winded way, to flag up the Spectator's brilliant Lloyd Evans, whose report of today's seemingly dire PMQs is, frankly, a masterpiece of richly comic observation.

His description of Cameron as a man who is "slipperier than a jellyfish emerging from an oil-slick" has an almost Wodehousian quality to it, while he describes one Labour backbencher as "a floppy haired Scouser who looks like an angry Beatle".  His greatest description today, though, is of the SNP's Angus Robertson, of whom he says "the stars that twinkled at his birth allotted him a superhuman store of charmlessness".   There's every chance we come away from chortling over Evans' sketch rather more wise in the ways of PMQs than if we'd simply watched it.

Do We Love Our MPs?

Apparently not, is the conclusion from a recent British Election Study survey which Philip Cowley uses for a fascinating piece of analysis.  I'd recommend any politics student to make a regular point of visiting the Nottingham University Politics department blog (Ballots and Bullets) on which Cowley and his colleagues post for just this sort of interesting, slightly off the beaten path form of analysis.

I won't repeat all of Cowley's points here - you can after all go and read it yourself - but suffice it to note that MPs individually don't seem to score that much more highly in the public's esteem than MPs as a whole, who as we know are generally (and yes, unfairly) despised.  There is also a small crumb of comfort for the Lib Dems in the survey, suggesting that Lib Dem MPs are both more familiar in terms of name recognition n their seats, and that they score slightly higher positive ratings individually than MPs from other parties.  Those of us who believe the Lib Dems will do badly but not go into meltdown at the next election are basing much of that expectation on this very factor - that a decent number of Lib Dem MPs are well enough bedded in to their constituencies to buck the national trend.  This may not, however, apply to prominent government office holders such as Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, who may find themselves more favourable to an unreformed House of Lords than ever after May 2015.

Also on the subject of the next election blogger and radio presenter Iain Dale is currently going through every Westminster seat with a prediction as to how they will go in May - an immense but very thorough task.