Thursday, 22 October 2009

The chamber twitters into a postal strike

Reprint of yesterday's PMQs sketch almost as it appeared in the Herald ( because don't you love it when the subs cut out your pay off line).

Dr John Pugh, the analogue Lib Dem MP for Southport, has a motion down condemning the growing tendency of hon. members to text, e mail and twitter their way through parliamentary debates. According to his motion "greater interest is shown in e-mails and messages than in the contribution of parliamentary colleagues", although he admits the practice is "at times quite understandable".

Quite a few MPs are getting famous for twittering from the chamber, which for the uninitiated is a 140 character message posted to followers on an internet website. I know, some can’t see the point, but with the price of postage these days...

Jo Swinson, the Dunbartonshire East MP does it - constantly. She’s one of these people who a survey discovered wouldn’t notice a red-nosed, unicycling clown going down the street in front of them because they are too busy tweeting into their phones that they are walking down a street. Tom Harris, the Scottish blogfather, does it but with limited 3G coverage in his Glasgow North-East encampment we are spared his opinions on 1970s tv programmes for another week. Pete Wishart, SNP MP does it, or did , until Labour caught him out slagging off the whole of Prime Minister’s Questions. Not a tweet out of him since, and he was not visible at PMQs yesterday.

That said from a perch high in the press gallery I could hardly see the green benches for all the other journalists twittering into their mobile phones. Alistair Carmichael, Orkney and Shetland, was fiddling with a blackberry, but he could have been playing snake, as twittering is below him.

If all these MPs had glanced up from their phones they would have seen David Cameron and Gordon Brown going ding dong on another form of communication - the postal service. Cameron had accused Gordon Brown of lacking the "courage and leadership" to intervene in the postal dispute. In fact he accused him of "appalling weakness" in not bringing the bill to privatise the Royal Mail to the Commons, but if you were distracted by an incoming text alert you would have missed that.

"This has nothing to do with the dispute," complained the Prime Minister. "Let us urge the negotiation and mediation that is necessary avoid an unproductive strike," said Mr Brown, trying to sound authoritative and reassuring in the face of a winter of discontent.

"What the Prime Minister has just said is complete nonsense," said Cameron. He was talking about the Royal Mail bill which Mr Brown could not get past his backbenchers, not the Royal Mail strike.

Mr Brown, tried posting another letter through the slot and chastised the Tory leader for bringing the Royal Mail strike into "the political arena". There are few things in this world more political than a strike, Mr Cameron reminding him that union militancy was on the increase. At that the Prime Minister ran out of patience, slamming his papers down on the dispatch box (cries of ohh) as he urged Mr Cameron to reflect on whether his remarks were making it any easier to solve the dispute .

"I would have thought they would have agreed with me that this is a counterproductive strike could only be resolved by proper negotiation and arbitration," said Mr Brown sounding sensible.

But, as usual, it was Mr Cameron who came away smelling as fresh as Interflora roses delivered to the doorstep. In the end it’s all about delivery. Mr Cameron speaks the language of the smartphone, and Mr Brown has the communicative power of a second class stamp on a postal strike Thursday

1 comment:

  1. Slightly gobsmacked that MPs text and Twitter in the chamber. Naive me I guess but really, the speaker should treat them like kids in class. Put your fleekin' phones away and pay attention.