Thursday, 14 May 2009


A subdued House of Commons at Prime Minister's Questions for a change. After days of being flayed in the press over their expenses, MPs knew that the normal shenanigans, the absurd theatre we love so much, would not do.

Even Mr Speaker was on his best behaviour and the MPs sat on the benches like chastened schoolchildren outside the headmaster's office.

The reason was that, unlike previous scandals, there was hardly anyone left without mud on their clothes. No good throwing dirty moat water at the Tories because you might be hit back by a LibDem trouser press or a minister's tax bill.

As usual, some MPs had taken their paperwork into the chamber. Presumably some were writing cheques, on a sliding scale of repayment dependant on the size of one's majority or guilty conscience.

The running total in repayments is over £100,000 - more than it is rumoured the Daily Telegraph paid for the information in the first place. MPs were proving what value for money they were, at least for newspaper circulation.

There were no baying hyenas as a sluggish Mr Brown sought consensus from the opposition to accept reforms that David Cameron and others had already proposed. The PM has taken on the political pallor of Leonid Brezhnev, who had to be walked around to crank him into life before public appearances.

Mr Cameron was not going to give up his lead easily and widened the partisan divide, calling for the abolition of the £10,000 communications allowance and for fewer MPs.

That would save money, and sound good down the pub. The consensus had broken down. Mr Brown, not nimble, said these were matters for either another time and another committee.

To the viewing public, that looked as if the Prime Minister still didn't get it.

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