Last week in London, the weather was warm well into the night. And the House of Commons sat until past midnight last Tuesday, as the Finance Bill was debated. Many MPs found themselves with time to kill as they waited for crucial votes, and, it seems, gravitated to the Commons terrace. Here, as the comedy legend otherwise known as Gerald Wiley might have observed, several of them became Elephant’s Trunk And Mozart.
So far, so routine: Honourable Members getting themselves into what Private Eye might have called an overtired state is hardly a new thing. But some of the behaviour then spilled back into the chamber as voting time approached – except for one MP, Tory new boy Mark Reckless, who has represented Rochester for just two months. Sad to say, he was in such an advanced state of alcoholic derangement that he was unable to even stand up, let alone return to cast his vote.
Although this evening of indulgence gained cross-party support, most of those getting themselves comprehensively totalled were Tories – deputy chief whip John Randall, member for Uxbridge, and Sheryll Murray, who represents South East Cornwall, prominent among them – so it might be thought that the right leaning side of the Fourth Estate would not be so vocal on the issue.
And that thought would be wrong: the Beeb mentioned Reckless’ indiscretion, while the Guardian, Independent and Mirror had not, when I last looked, carried the story at all. The noise is all coming from papers that would normally cheer for the Tories – or at least put the boot in to Labour. The Maily Telegraph goes into some detail, but for sheer righteous indignation you have to turn to the Daily Mail, where the disciples of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre have gone into why-oh-why overdrive.
The Mail article tells “One cabinet minister was said to be slurring his speech ... some MPs barely knew where they were, let alone what they were voting for ... several people were legless”. And, of course, we are reminded that all this is subsidised by the taxpayer, so we’re meant to get really annoyed about it.
Meanwhile, Mark Reckless has declared that he won’t be in future: “It was a mistake I will not be repeating”.