The PM was away today, and we were treated to half an hour of John Prescott instead. David Cameron and Ming Campbell didn’t ask questions (partly out of convention, partly to give Prezza half a fighting chance), so William Hague spoke for the Tories, and Vince Cable represented the Liberal Democrats.
In theory, PMQs is an opportunity for opposition MPs and Labour backbenchers to ask questions about Government business. In practice, it’s a political boxing match, where the party leaders try and land as many rhetorical punches as possible on each other. The reviews on this blog will treat PMQs like the televised bloodsport it really is, giving points for every blow that strikes home, and tallying up a score.
Prescott 1 : 2 Hague
Hague made a lot of political capital by talking about his and David Cameron’s visit to Iraq, and telling everyone how much the Tories care about British troops (1 point). By talking about engaging other countries in the region, he managed to sound statesmanlike and informed (1 point).
Prescott didn’t help himself by mentioning the Tories’ visit to Iraq several times, rather reinforcing Hague’s message. However, Two Jags does get one point for comedy, thanks to the following beauty:
I think it is a matter that the Prime Minister I think has mentioned to the House on a number of occasions, that he would like to encourage in the neighbouring countries to participate in those kinds of agreements. It is not easy, it’s difficult, some of those countries are playing a very difficult part, and encouraging the kinds of assaults and injuries that are taking place there, and they could do an awful lot more to prevent it. I think anything that helps towards that, and if in his discussions with those people is encouraging that kind of development, I’m sure we’d welcome it.
You couldn't make it up!
Prescott 0 : 2 Cable
Vince gets a point for picking up a contradiction between the PM and the Treasury (regarding regional inequalities). Prescott gets no points for his rather vague answers, but he gives away a point to Vince, for referring to him as someone who “spends a lot of time looking at the economic data”, and trying to paint him as an economic anorak. This does Cable’s boffin-like image no harm at all – the Lib Dems consistently score badly in polls when it comes to economic policy, and having a geeky economist in the fold is actually quite helpful.
Prescott 0 : 4 Hague
The second round was a total walkover. Hague asked how much money the government had pilfered from pensions since 1997, and scored a point when Prescott failed to answer. Hague gets two points for asking why the taxpayer should pay to keep the Deputy Prime Minister in a “non-job” if he can’t answer a simple question. In front of silent and glum Labour benches, and baying Tories, Prescott's rambling defence of the Government's record wasn’t very convincing.
Prescott handed over the final point to Hague with a childish attack on the Tories’ new, rather silly debt-buster website. Whatever you think of David Cameron, it’s neither big nor clever for the Deputy PM to use a very naughty word about him in Parliament. What a tosser.