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Thursday 17 January 2013

PMQs – Letts Look Over There!

I’ve noted in the past that the Daily Mail’s Westminster sketch writer, the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not) has a habit of redefining reality when the party leader of his choice – that would be Young Dave – loses the weekly contest that is Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). Usually he just awards it to Cameron and leaves it at that: yesterday, though, he could not bring himself even to pass judgment.

Why so? Well, here we had a fairly immediate report of the exchanges, thanks to reawakened right-leaning blogger Iain Dale, who observed “I hope the Prime Minister is on better form than that when he makes his big European speech on Friday”. Cameron “didn’t really seem up for the fight”. The title of the post summed up the performance: “Miliband whips Cameron at PMQs”.

Now consider the Letts offering. “Deja vu! Ed was just like Kinnock all those years ago” he proclaimed. Now, as Jon Stewart might have observed, two things here. The Thatcher and Kinnock exchange he describes was not at PMQs. And comparing a Margaret Thatcher debate performance with someone seemingly not up for the fight is ridiculous.

He used all his bullets on Europe” blusters Letts, once again pleading with readers to “look over there”. We’re comparing a debate with PMQs: Miliband has a set number of questions he can ask Cameron, and no more. All is over in a few minutes. So sticking to one subject is perfectly legitimate, and Young Dave did it when he was leader of the opposition.

And check out this Letts gem: “The Tory party is still divided, but only in its degrees of Euroscepticism. The other two main parties, the Lib Dems and Labour, are hot-to-trot Europhiles, but it is on the Tory benches that all the intellectual wrestling is taking place. Of the three main parties it is the Tories who are in the best position to move to the right, which is where the electorate seems to be heading”.

Yes, intra-party warfare is merely “intellectual wrestling”, the electorate “seems” to be heading right – which would be why Labour has that 13 point lead, eh, Quent – and so moving to the right is A Very Good Thing. He’s not making sense – and by his own admission, the Thatcher speech was made only a few days before the Tories dumped her. Is he suggesting a similar fate for Young Dave?

Enough. Letts is, as we used to say in Yorkshire, all wind and piss. When someone who has been a Conservative Party candidate in a parliamentary election – as Iain Dale has – says that Mil The Younger has whipped Young Dave at PMQs, then it almost certainly wasn’t a good performance by the PM. Even the Mail’s readers are eventually going to tire of Letts’ brand of factual reinvention.

Perhaps it’s time for him to go and run that pub he keeps talking about.

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