Richard Lutz checks out David Cameron during the new friendly Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.
Remember the good old days when venom stained the House of Commons with PMQs (aka Prime Minister’s Questions)? The MPs brayed, bayed and squealed. How they erupted into animal noises. How they used personal poison instead of the tools of debate.
Well, the newly-appointed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with a keen likeness to a stern but fair geography teacher, called for a more intelligent weekly session than the bear baiting escapades of the last twenty years.
Prime Minister Cameron had no choice but to agree. He was caught in the headlights. If he continued with his public school nasty verbal poison, he would be seen as the nasty public school child he can sometimes descend to. He had to be nice, polite, courteous. In effect, a Corbyn win. Score: 1-0.
But still there was something amiss as Cameron played nice with his left wing opponent. What was it? Then I realised what it was.
He had that look in his face of the father playing with his daughter or son. The kid comes up with some preposterous rule or game they must follow. But daddy can’t criticise or comment. He has to continue with what he knows is stupid, childish, dumb. But he’s got to keep the child happy or all hell will bust out. Or even worse, he’ll be seen to be a bad parent. Just shut up and do it.
Cameron had that look in his face. The shut-up-and-play-this-ridiculous-game-to-get-it-over-with look.
Of course below the surface nothing in the PMQ session today really changed anything. There was the softball lob from his handpicked backbenchers. One even, ludicrously, was about the health of a tiger in an Isle of Wight zoo. Which was surreal because it closely resembled an early West Wing episode when the US President was asked to take up the plight of a panda bear’s health to help Sino-Washington relations.
Other questions from his own party we’re also achingly dumb: a ‘question’ about the importance of the armed forces, a ‘query’ over how happy he was about a government financial package for Yorkshire, and…Lord knows what else, but all vetted by Tory backroom boys and handed out to obscure MPs whom the PM owed a small favour and needed the TV cover.
Corbyn’s side of things was serious, concerned, a bit of a tedious political science lecture with some questions from ‘real people’ that were emailed in. From Gail, Claire, Steven. Nothing, by the way, from Tony in Islington, Gordon from Dunfermline or Ed from North London.
So, the first of the new politics. A chomping-at-the-bit Cameron ready for some real honest Etonian venom, a volley of utter concern from Corbyn and, I would think, a huge yawn from political commentators who are born to believe Parliament was set up for their own amusement.