Time was when Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions was the closest you got to bloodsports in the House of Commons. The DPM would be tethered, red-faced and growling, to the dispatch box, as Labour MPs taunted him and propelled all sorts of bile at him, augmented by the odd tactical nuclear missile rear-launched by the Tory swivel-eyes.
We’ve come a long way in a few months. Now, DPMQs are relatively sedate affairs. The DPM is well in control and there is little mischief from the Labour benches. Well, none that would spoil LibDem MPs’ lunches.
Indeed, at least four MPs found it difficult to summon enthusiasm for DPMQs this time. Unusually, that number tabled questions but couldn’t be bothered to turn up to ask them.
In response to a question from John Pugh (LibDem), Nick Clegg announced that the Joint Committee of both houses on House of Lords reform will report by 27th March 2012.
In answer to Sadiq Khan (Lab), the DPM was, again very clear about reform:
Yes, of course…I support a fully elected second Chamber. The right hon. Gentleman’s party achieved precisely 0% of election to the other Chamber. I modestly suggest that if we achieve 80%, that will be better than 0%.
It is often assumed that Tory backbenchers are opposed to House of Lords reform. However, this session demonstrated that, on this subject, there is a nexus of sensible Tory MPs, particularly in the East of England. Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) and Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) both asked questions which were solidly supportive to reform. In fact, I detected much less Tory anti-reform noise than has previously been the case. Perhaps the whips have dusted off their old files.
About the most unsedate that the session got was when Sadiq Khan goaded Nick Clegg about a series of alleged LibDem failures to influence the government. Nick Clegg fired back, saying the government are “clearing up the mess” left behind by Labour and that Labour have nothing to say on the economy.
LibDem question of the week
Duncan Hames asked an excellent question highlighting that Labour councillors in Manchester have voted to reject the pupil premium to help children from the most challenging backgrounds.
Hold the front page
Labour’s Mike Gapes tried to suggest that it was some sort of evidence of a major rift in the coalition that Nick Clegg and William Hague met the German foreign minister this week in separate meetings.
Career limiting question
Peter Bone (Con – Swivel-eyed) is obsessed with who will takeover as Prime Minister if David Cameron dies. He’s asked the question several times now – almost as often as he reads out dispatches from “Mrs Bone” – and asked again at this DPMQs. Bear in mind that the last British Prime Minister to die in office was Palmerston in 1865. No surprise, then, that Nick Clegg got a big laugh when he retorted:
I must say…that his morbid fascination with the premature death of his own party leader is a subject not for me, but for the Chief Whip.
Other subjects covered were:
-Armed Forces electoral registration
-The Electoral Register
-The Boundary Commission proposals