10 December 2010

PMQs and Parliamentary Sketchwriters

There is a long British tradition of Parliamentary sketchwriters providing much-needed light relief. For my money The Times’ Ann Treneman is the best at the moment. One of her gifts is being able to report mainly male antics with devastating female dryness. The aim of a sketchwriter is, of course, to amuse his or her audience, not to provide thoughtful analysis. From what I can see, most of the sketchwriters took a similar view of PMQs on 8 December, for example that of Simon Carr in The Independent:
... "Rank hypocrisy. Shameless opportunism," Cameron had said. "He's behaving like a student politician and that's all he ever will be."
"I was a student politician," EDM [Ed Miliband] said, "but I didn't spend my time hanging around with people who were wrecking restaurants and throwing bread rolls."
Whatever it looks like on the page it had a wonderful effect on his reputation. He can't be said to have won the questioning – he tripped up a couple of times, and two of his gags didn't really fire, but all that became irrelevant in an instant. He'd bopped the Prime Minister on the nose and his MPs were crazed with excitement and relief, jack-knifing with that laughter they do. ...
... Kerry McCarthy asked him a pert little question about The Smiths (who recently banned Cameron from liking them). The PM was able to come up immediately with a couple song titles. "I probably wouldn't get 'This Charming Man'," he said, in that charming way he has.
Then he dispatched Jack Dromey's much-interrupted question with the words, "He has the unique qualification of being selected on an all-woman shortlist – next time he comes in he should dress properly." ...

But nowadays we all know how much preparation goes into PMQs.  A wide range of questions likely to be forthcoming from those opposition members lucky enough to be chosen for PMQs are researched and assessed by very bright people who then carefully fireproof the answers. So:

1.  I think Cameron was giving Miliband an open goal and a boost - I wonder why?
2.  Given recent Twitterings like
@Johnny_Marr David Cameron, stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don't. I forbid you to like it.
McCarthy's question was predictable, it’s just that the No10 team wouldn't have known which opposition MP would ask it instead of, say, something to do with their constituency.  The Smith's song titles would probably be listed somewhere in the PMs brief.
3.  Similarly, given that they knew a question was coming from Dromey, that all-purpose put-down would have been on the stocks.

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