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Wednesday 5 March 2014

PMQs – Itch-A-Sketch 8

What might be on the menu today as Young Dave takes on all comers in the Commons for the regulation half-hour bunfight? We may get a mention of the situation in Ukraine. There could be something about that migration report that somehow didn’t see the light of day. Otherwise, as Cilla might have said, shall we have a look and find out?
Mil The Younger had just one outlet for his six questions today, and it’s the Ukraine drain. Will there be talks between the Russians and Ukrainians? What’s Cameron doing to show Moscow their behaviour is unacceptable? What about the EU? Dave is on the case. There will be no Royal visits to the Sochi Paralympics. Well, there you go – that’ll have Putin quaking in his boots.

But for once, the party leaders’ joust is a mere side-show. The Tories have been getting organised for a group softball grovelfest on apprentices. In they came, “questions” showing how the Blue Team were the party of seriously tackling youth unemployment through “earning while learning”. Chester’s clueless chump Stephen Mosley led the way. Well, sort of.

He was followed by Brooks Newmark, Mark Menzies, Graham Stuart and Therese Coffey, which was of course complete coincidence. Oh no it wasn’t. It stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Dave was in his element. Jolly good show! The other lot were rubbish at this! He completely agreed with the various Hon Members, which he should have, as his bods set the questions up in the first place.

Where’s the knockabout? Jack Straw is the answer to that one: what about TransPennine Express losing trains to facilitate the comfort of southern commuters? [catcalls]. Problem: Straw lives on a southern commuter line. He valiantly continued: it’s no laughing matter in the North of England [derision, shouts of “you wouldn’t know, you don’t live there”]. Mr Speaker timed him out.

And, in any case, Cameron just went into project listing and statistics waffle mode, talking of electrification in the North West, while not telling the House that there are not yet any trains to run under the wires once they get strung up, which is what ought to happen to whoever briefed him. Fortunately there were few rail experts around, and plenty of derisive hooting at the unfortunate Straw.

Then, to break the tedium of grovelling Tories talking about apprenticeships (if only Sir Alan could appear and tell the silly beggars they were all fired), came talk of the Oscars from Tobias Ellwood. Bournemouth University was the place to be – they were doing Graduates For Gravity! What about that then? Yes, said Cameron, that was jolly good too. And jolly convenient. And that was it.

Did we learn anything? Doubtful. Except that northern commuter votes are cheap.

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