PMQs Verdict: Sombre, sober and in memory of a man respected across the house

8th January, 2014 1:54 pm

I’ll be honest, I was expecting fireworks at PMQs today. It’s the first day back after the Christmas break and MPs have had about as long a break as they’re going to get between now and the General Election. I thought I’d see the party leaders launch themselves at each other like a pair of oversized jack-in-the-boxes. I thought it would be angry, unseemly and probably rather boisterous.  I’d even written a piece with Marcus Roberts this morning talking this up as the real beginning of the political year.

And then ninety minutes before PMQs came the tragic news that Paul Goggins MP had passed away. And the mood in Westminster shifted from angry to sombre.

I didn’t know Paul Goggins, but I’d heard plenty of his colleagues in the house praise him in the past both publicly and privately. What’s more remarkable though is that I’d never heard anyone have a bad word to say about him. In the often robust and aggressive atmosphere of Westminster it’s rare to hear only good things about someone. He sounded like an exceptionally good man. I wish I had known him.

So into the chamber trooped MPs from across the political spectrum this afternoon. Many of them knew, liked and respected Goggins. The Speaker gave a moving tribute to the Wythenshawe and Sale East MP, which was followed up by touching tributes from both the Cameron and Miliband. The latter seemed to bring a few tears to even some of the grizzled veterans of the green benches.

house_of_commons.jpg

With such a sombre start, PMQs was never going to be a bun-fight today. It’s hard to spend five minutes sharing praise for a man respected across the house only to follow that up with a twenty five minute slanging match. So the questions from Ed Miliband were precise and measured. And the answers from Cameron were similarly restrained.

Sure, there were some moments when the temperature of the room increased. Diane Abbott took a swipe at the government over housing benefit, and Tom Blenkinsop pressed the PM on a rather questionable visit to Downing Street (which Political Scrapbook have covered in detail). But on the whole this was a much calmer, more serious and more respectful occasion.

It was suggested by the BBC’s Nick Robinson afterwards that today was, perhaps, the first PMQs of a new, more mature, more statesmanlike style. It was even suggested that the two leaders might have come together over the break and agreed to take the temperature out of proceedings. I very much doubt that.

No, this was something altogether simpler but more visceral. This was a group of people, many shocked and saddened, who decided that today was a day for mourning, not a day for caterwauling. It spoke well of the man Paul Goggins was that he could bring calm to where there is normally such anger. He will be missed.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]

Latest

  • Comment Featured Steel crisis and Chinese dumping shows why we need a truly ethical foreign policy

    Steel crisis and Chinese dumping shows why we need a truly ethical foreign policy

      While Carwyn Jones, Welsh First Minister, has travelled to India to ensure the board of Tata consider the implications of the sale of Port Talbot steelworks, Angela Eagle has called for China to be refused “market economy status”. This is an important statement. It indicates the party is changing policy. We need a new consensus on international trade.   In 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed into law the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act which imposed a 50 per cent tax on […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn and Kinnock demand more help for “traumatised” steel industry after Tata board reaches impasse

    Corbyn and Kinnock demand more help for “traumatised” steel industry after Tata board reaches impasse

    Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn are piling pressure on the Tories to do more to help the struggling steel industry after a crunch meeting of the Tata board broke up without a shortlist of bidders for its UK operations being agreed. Tata Steel had been expected to publish the shortlist after its meeting in Mumbai today but the firm said only that several bids were under “active consideration”. The uncertainty continues as hundreds of British steelworkers represented by Community, Unite […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured PMQs Verdict: Osborne falters, Eagle soars and Trident lurks in the background

    PMQs Verdict: Osborne falters, Eagle soars and Trident lurks in the background

    Those in the Commons chamber today were slightly taken aback by the wall of noise that greeted Angela Eagle as she stood up to the despatch box this afternoon. It is unusual these days to see Labour MPs in such vocal spirit, and they seemed to be making up for lost time with extra volume. As much as the absence of Corbyn could account for this (the Labour leader does not encourage noise from his backbenchers, and it is not […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Dan Jarvis: As a former soldier I back the EU as a project for peace

    Dan Jarvis: As a former soldier I back the EU as a project for peace

    This is a speech entitled The patriotic choice for a more secure Britain delivered by Dan Jarvis at the Royal British Legion in Mitcham, south London, today. I want to begin by thanking Siobhain [McDonagh] for her welcome. Since 1997 she has served as MP for Mitcham and Morden, working tirelessly for her constituents and it’s a great pleasure to be in her constituency today. I would also like to thank Ross Kemp for his kind introduction. We are particularly grateful that today […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Featured News McDonnell seizes on IFS report to warn Brexit would spell “disaster” of more austerity

    McDonnell seizes on IFS report to warn Brexit would spell “disaster” of more austerity

    A vote to leave the EU would be a “disaster”, John McDonnell has said today as the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warns that Brexit would lead to two more years of austerity. A report published today by Britain’s leading tax and spending think tank says that leaving the EU would cost the country between £20 billion and £40 billion in 2019/20, as the UK’s economic growth falls. McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, said such losses would be the inevitable […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit