Coffee House

PMQs sketch: The bombshell from a man who could be a bore

18 June 2014

6:26 PM

18 June 2014

6:26 PM

Explosive stuff at PMQs. Question two and Sir Peter Tapsell, the Father of the House, was called. This quaint semi-official title makes him, potentially, the chamber’s most dependable bore. Not today. He called on backbenchers to enact their ‘ancient but still existing power’ to commence procedures of impeachment against ‘the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair’. Not for war crimes. For lying to parliament about the Iraq invasion.

Wow. This bombshell took the pressure off Miliband who’s in lousy shape and could do with a win at PMQs. Badly. He hasn’t got near Cameron for months. But he decided to shelter behind the nation-quake in Iraq, and he spent all six questions exchanging lightly-armed platitudes with the PM.

But beforehand, he had to endure the wrecking ball of Tory applause. It’s a weekly ritual. At noon, every Wednesday, Miliband enters the debate like a TV star making his Shaftesbury Avenue debut. He’s engulfed by whoops and cries of adoration from the Conservative benches. It’s painful. And he always glares back at them like a vegetarian finding a half-eaten worm in his coleslaw. It’s worse than painful, in fact, it’s tragic. Can’t he hire a comedian to write him a few debonair put-downs for these occasions?

Or is it worth the bother? His poll rating is plummeting so fast they’ll soon start hunting for the pinger. And where Miliband leads, his troops follow. Their hot-button issues are going cold. Food banks, benefit cuts, disability glitches, loan sharks, the bedroom tax? Not a peep from Labour’s backbenchers. Even their spiritual home, the NHS, has become a no-go area because they can’t work out an effective response to Cameron’s Cardiff strategy. Asked any hostile question about health, the Tory leader quotes the control experiment of Wales where Labour’s governorship has simplified the service into a morgue with a waiting-room attached.


‘They’re yawning!’ said Cameron, as he delivered his stock reply on health. ‘They’re not yawning in Wales. They’re stuck on waiting lists, desperate.’

Ben Bradshaw had a pop. Bradshaw’s handsome, ageing face might almost be a Mount Rushmore statue after a particularly savage rainstorm. He had a crafty plan today. A nine-word question to wrong-foot Cameron.

‘How is his campaign to stop Mr Juncker going?’

Cameron saw the ball in time and walloped it for six. ‘Principle,’ he yelled. Not the individual candidate but the ‘principle’ is the key to this appointment. ‘If you want change you’ve got to stand up for it,’ he said, suddenly so fired up that his jowls were all a-wobble. ‘And I will fight this right to the very end.’

His backbenchers roared like a bunch of birthday party kids seeing the cake arrive. Cameron sat down with a grin spreading across his pink chops. He mouthed a personal ‘thank you’ across the floor to Ben Bradshaw. He meant it.

Bill Cash was called. His question was dense and convoluted. The gist was that his Euro-colleagues have recently blocked an EU attempt to give the adjective ‘euro-sceptic’ the same ethical value as ‘xenophobic’ or ‘racist.’ Great stuff. Well played. More worrying is the implication that the EU has assumed the power to accord words, which are the tools of thought, moral quantifications.

I recall a book written by someone called Blair mentioning this a few times.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • swatnan

    Sir Peter could easily be replaced by Sir William Cash as Bore of the House. Incidently, whatever did Cash do to deserve a knighthood.

  • Benedict

    It is sad that journalists take PMQ seriously.
    It is but a metropolitan folly, full of sound and fury, signifying

  • Sentinel

    It is reported that Cameron has accepted Juncker will be formally proposed by the European Council at the 25/6 June summit.
    The YouGov poll has 44% wanting to stay in the EU (53% if Cameron endorses the ‘new terms’).
    Lord Ashcroft’s national poll has Cons at 29% and Labour at 35%.

    Why on earth are Tory backbenchers in such a good mood?

    • Benedict

      ‘Why on earth are Tory backbenchers in such a good mood?’

      They believe the PR man who leads them
      and they think that they have paid an Australian enough money to win the election for them.

  • My_old_mans_a_dustman

    Impeach Blair and get out of the thought Policed EU. Everything’s good.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    Sorry, Mr Evans. I hadn’t realised Quentin Letts had vacated his stool at the “Daily Mail”.

    Still, I’d have to admit your grasp of unrealities, and sharp tongue are a close fit.

  • Bert3000

    “whoops and cries of adoration from the Conservative benches”

    And this impresses who, exactly?

    Does Tapsell get to be ‘father of the house’ because he has the oldest suit?

    • Andy

      No, because he has sat the longest of any other. He fist sat in the house from 1959-1964, and has been the member for Louth since 1966.

  • Blindsideflanker

    A bigger bombshell was Cameron revealing his answer for the democratic deficit in England, which was to break England up into city fiefdoms. Considering England’s democratic heritage, of parishes , counties, and parliamentary democracy is a b****** insult.

    May be it is all those Scottish corpuscles coursing through Cameron’s veins which makes him think we would appreciate tribal fiefdoms, and not what King Alfred won for us which was a unified country.

    • Colonel Mustard

      He’s a peculiar cove alright. I thought his remark about combatting the risk of ISIS by being “more inclusive” was equally barmy.

      • Blindsideflanker

        When Cameron said the ISIS threat was to us here as well. I felt sure he was going to tell us they could be threat to us within 45 minutes.

        • Hexhamgeezer

          That would be a more credible claim seeing as so many of the bggrs are a bus ride away or less.

  • goatmince

    Well done, sir. Chapeau.