Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Reading the Clues at PMQs

Watching PMQs today provided a few pointers, I thought on the current state of our politics:

1. Blair
A much happier day today than last week. His body language was more positive and he was sufficiently combative against Cameron to rally his troops; unlike last week when they remained silent, he received some vocal support. Perhaps his enemies in the party have called a tacit truce. But my feeling was that he is still, as Cameron claimed, 'rattled.'

2 Cameron
As eager and aggressive as ever but the 'force' was not quite as with him this week as last. He ought to tone down the volume a little as a shrill tone tends not to catch the mood. Maybe could have chosen better topics too. The hopeless performance by the senior Home Ofice official in front of yesterday's Public Administration Committee, not to mention the Cabinet secretary's admission no-one had been disciplined for the foreign prisoners debacle, offered something of an open goal which I felt Cameron rather miffed.

3. Ming
Derided last week, he had something, a lot perhaps, to prove today. But I'm afraid he didn't regain any lost ground, even though he played conspicuously safe-clear evidence of his travails- by asking short questions and staying on the familiar ground of foreign affairs. But his questions on withdrawal from Iraq and Guntanamo had no real bite and rather than bounce off the PM, they barely crawled their way across the House to reach him. Blair did, however, in his answer, say explicitly that the camp should be closed, which I think is a first, so maybe Ming can claim a crumb of comfort from that.

4. Too much Noise
One thing I noted from today's and recent PMQs, is that the background hubbub is far too loud. Blair had to lean back straining to hear Paisley through the back of seat microphone. Why doesn't Mr Speaker intervene with more force one asks? Oh, and John Prescott made his first utterence in the house since the embarrassments of recent weeks. I had anticpated he would be laughed to scorn, but it is unwise to underestimate the resilience of the self constructed carapace behind which senior politicians shelter.

He's back, and like Blair, will hope for some error-up free weeks or months to settle the ship and restore an impression of normality. But the atmosphere is still febrile and it would only need another cock-up to put Blair's back right back against the wall.

An interesting analysis. I agree that Cameron sounds far too shrill in the chamber. He can even sound boyish, especially when juxtaposed against Blair. Cameron still lacks - indeed is nowhere near reaching - the sense of a "prime minister in waiting" created by Blair, 1994-97.

My analysis of this week's PMQs may be found here -
Bill, I agree with your comment on the Speaker. I can feel a 'greatest speakers of our time' list coming on. Go on, you know you want to....
Wish I knew enough about Speakers to do one but I fear that's for the Study of Parliament Group wonks like Philip Norton
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