Friday, November 04, 2005

A right bollocking from Blunkett

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. It was written before David Blunkett resigned and before everyone started comparing Tony Blair's current predicament to the last years of John Major.

Remember, remember

It feels as though we did not put the clocks back an hour last weekend. It feels like ten years. A tired government about to be faced with a squeaky clean new leader who is vague on policy and plays down his privileged background.

Just as Tony Blair went to Fettes (the Eton of Scotland), David Cameron went to Eton (the Fettes of England).

Add to that daft policies (the cones hotline, banning drinking on trains), ministers leaking to newspapers and the rebirth of sleaze, and the parallels with the end of John Major’s government start to look uncanny.

Of course there are differences of scale. Labour has David Blunkett and the Tories, amongst others, had Steven Norris, Tim Yeo, David Ashby, Graham Riddick, David Treddinick, Tim Smith, Neil Hamilton, Jonathan Aitken, Richard Spring, Rod Richards, Jerry Hayes and Piers Merchant.

But when David Blunkett came to the House on Monday for work and pensions questions there was only one worth asking. How much longer will you cling on to office?

First up was Lynne Featherstone, and she had the courage to ask something close to it. “Given that the Minister's judgment has been so publicly brought into question in recent times, does he believe that he remains in a position to secure the consensus that he mentioned in a divided Cabinet over the urgent need radically to reform the pensions system?”

Blunkett put her down with monstrous condescension. Or, as Lynne put it more earthily on her blog, he gave her a “right bollocking for daring to ask and for not understanding that it is impolite to use questions to the Minister to ask a question to the Minister.”

Labour’s obsession with sleaze during the Major years was a way of disguising how similar the two parties’ policies were. If David Cameron wins the Conservative leadership he may try the same tactic. There was no sign of it on Monday, but that may just be because the Tories are still so bad at opposing.

Monday’s questions covered pension reform, Jobseekers Allowance and the Child Support Agency – all subjects that may soon be of personal interest to Mr Blunkett. But they matter to the rest of us too, and Lynne’s question deserves an answer.

No comments: