Thursday, May 18, 2006
Estelle(now Lady) Morris once gave an interview in which she reported the view of a colleague already in the Cabinet on fellow members: 'The good news is, they're just like us and the bad news is, they're just like us.' I love the humour of this observation and, with some qualificactions, would agree with its central message. I thought of it while reading the detail, in Simon Hoggart's column, on Prescott's return to the Commons yesterday.
First, just like any of us, after the mauling his life has recently taken, he wants things to get back to normal and play a role in governing. He claimed, combatively that he 'is doing far more than,Lord Heseltine did' He listed the dozen or so Cabinet committees he chairs across government as well as little extras like relations with China and climate change. This 'elder statesman' role of chairing committees, a delicate and crucial task to be sure, has in the past been undertaken by ministers without portfolio like the Lord Privy Seal or Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, rather than the Deputy Prime Minister but presumably Blair did not have the heart or the stomach to demote his wounded ally given the circumstances.
Second, like most of us, he has his friends in the House. Swindon MP, Anne Snelgrove, from his own side,(pictured above) spoke of the 'pride' the country felt at the role he was playing. It's hard to guess whether she was doing this out of obedience to whips' instructions, very, very naive ambition or, and perhaps this can be quickly discarded, because she fancied a quick cuddle behind the door.
Third, like most of us again, Prezza has his enemies- and given his aggressive nature, no doubt more than most. Andrew Robathan, a Conservative front bencher, slid in the stiletto when he asked whether any world leaders he might meet would treat him with 'the same contempt as this House.' Ouch indeed. Hoggart tells us that behind this lies a furious row some time back in the tea-room over (presumably the use of) a mobile phone. This spat must have taken place several years ago, given that he was biting Prescott's ankles over his paid for accommodation as long ago as July 2000. Mr Rowbathan's remarkable longevity of spite puts one in mind of good old Joe Stalin who confided to mates Kamenev and Derzhinsky that: 'To choose one's victim, to prepare one's plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance and then go to bed...there's nothing sweeter in the world.' You see why I have reservations about them all being 'just like us'?
Nice use of a picture!
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