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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

PMQs = zzzzzzz




The battle lines for the next General Election were clearly drawn at last week’s PMQs: its “Labour investment vs. Tory Cuts”. One could be forgiven for thinking that we were back in the 1980’s as Gordon Brown repeated on several occasions, “we are the party of the many; they are the party of the few”.

This week’s ding-dong was presided over by the new speaker of the House, John Bercow, who one paper described as being ‘underdressed’. New politics indeed!

Picking up from last week, David Cameron repeatedly asked the PM to apologise for ‘false’ claims over govt spending, specifically his claim that ‘capital expenditure will grow until the year of the Olympics’. ‘Government figures show that this is not the case’.

Therein followed mundane political pantomime: my figures are right; yours are wrong; apologise; I have nothing to apologise for; cut, cut cut; spend, spend, spend; and so on. Even the Lib Dems weren’t spared with Brown stating it was them ‘not the Labour party who wish to cut public spending’. Hell hath no fury like Brown’s fury as Nick Clegg found out for sensibly pointing out that ‘balancing the nations’ books is going to take big, difficult, long term decisions’.

As Clegg mentioned policy reversals I wished too that I could reverse out of this bizarre and irrelevant exchange. It was as if there was no political crisis; no unanimous public condemnations over the expenses fracas; no genuine opportunity to renew our democracy.

It was business as usual at the commons, insulating the debate from extraneous political developments. And no, the speaker’s populist assertion that ‘there [was] simply too much noise and the public doesn’t like it’ doesn’t count. One wonders whether or not it is the political elite’s tactic to bore us with this ‘style’ and permanently place us in an apathetic coma.

As the storm clouds continue to hover over Westminster, with no sign yet of the winds of change sweeping in real, meaningful reform, I flicked channels to see the debate on the historic Climate Change Bill in Holyrood. With its open practices and dressed down members this does indeed look like “another place”.

It even has the approval of our Secretary of State, judging by his refreshingly welcome and apparently warm exchange with John Swinney yesterday. Mind you, the sight of two big Scotsmen hugging each other on the nation’s telly was a little much so I’m off to enjoy the sunshine and watch Andy win Wimbledon! It’s like watching PMQs, except the ladies do the grunting!

Barry McCulloch, Policy Officer

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