Friday, November 21, 2008

House Points: Haringey, Philip Hollobone and ocarinas

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

I had intended to write the definitive column on Baby Peter and Haringey, but Philip Hollobone and his ocarinas broke in. His bizarre contribution has also been noted by Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, but no one else. He is lucky.

House of fools

Who to blame for the scenes at prime minister’s questions last week? Least at fault was David Cameron. Though his later questions amounted to "What did you just call me?" he was entitled to raise the death of Baby P.

Cameron asked if it was acceptable that the review into the child’s death had been overseen by Haringey’s own children's services director. Lynne Featherstone and our councillors have rightly been asking more pointed questions than that.

More to blame was Gordon Brown. He has always had a tin ear for anything beyond economics and last Wednesday his answers were particularly graceless. He has arrived at a state of mind where, even as the economy collapses around him, he is so convinced of his own righteousness that anyone who questions him must have base motives.

But the real villains were Brown’s backbenchers for barracking Cameron. They heard him mention a Labour authority and social workers and that was enough for them. This ingrained belief, even in the face of the strongest evidence, that "their people" can do no wrong is one of Labour’s least appealing characteristics.

The death of Baby P - wouldn’t it be more dignified if we were allowed to call him by name? - was raised again when Ed Balls answered questions on Monday. He tried to slip a statement through. Mr Speaker cut him sort short and said he would have to come back another day and do it properly. The atmosphere was tense.

At which point the Tory Philip Hollobone took it into his head to stand up and ask Balls this question:

On another subject, the ocarina is an easy-to-play, easy-to-learn, easy-to-teach circular flute, and the centre of the UK’s ocarina industry is in Kettering. My constituents, David and Christa Liggins, actively promote the use of this low-cost musical instrument in schools across the country. Would the Secretary of State agree to meet my constituents and me to discuss how this low-cost instrument might help the Government to teach more school pupils how to play musical instruments?

So now Kettering is not only home to Britain’s ocarina industry: it is also home to the House of Commons’ greatest fool. Quite an accolade for the town.

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