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.

Latest

  • Comment Featured So you’ve been elected leader…

    So you’ve been elected leader…

    Last week, I laid out the potential paths to victory for the four candidates for Labour leader, setting out how it was possible for each candidate to win. Having internal elections like this – especially so soon after the gruelling General Election campaign – September 12th must feel like a finishing post for the candidates and their teams. But of course, the winning of the leadership is really just the start. How should each candidate approach running the Party? What is […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Leadership candidates set out devolution plans

    Leadership candidates set out devolution plans

    Labour leadership candidates will today flesh out their plans for devolution at a hustings in front of the Local Government Association Conference. Liz Kendall set out some of her vision, particularly with regards to fighting welfare reforms, earlier this week, and Burnham and Cooper are understood to be making clear their pitches later today. Andy Burnham Burnham will say the test of candidates in the Labour Leadership election is whether they can offer bold solutions to the challenges the country faces. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment We can be winning the economic arguments, right now

    We can be winning the economic arguments, right now

    Watching our earnest contenders debating exactly how many pro-business credentials they have to display to make Labour electable makes me almost nostalgic for May 2010. We seem to enjoy wallowing in the self-deprecating, self-pitying comfort zone of defeat, happy to leave the Tories to dismantle our public services (again), while we studiously beat ourselves up in public about Ed’s deficit blankout and Liam’s silly note. We’ve forgotten how on that fateful Thursday evening, no-one was more surprised with that exit […]

    Read more →
  • Comment PMQs Verdict: Harman’s hardened Heathrow stance will pay dividends for Labour down the line

    PMQs Verdict: Harman’s hardened Heathrow stance will pay dividends for Labour down the line

    Harriet Harman’s impressive PMQs form continues unabated. Post-election David Cameron may be in too strong a position to really struggle at the weekly bouts, but where previous Labour leaders would have wilted, Harman comes away with what, on balance, we can probably call a victory. She used her first questions to talk about the terrorists attack in Tunisia last week, and ask the PM about what steps the Government is taking to help victims and their families. As always, there […]

    Read more →
  • News Video Dennis Skinner: “No wonder they call him Dodgy Dave”

    Dennis Skinner: “No wonder they call him Dodgy Dave”

    Today Dennis Skinner took to the Commons floor to ask David Cameron a question about miners’ pensions. He said to that Cameron hasn’t “got the guts to help miners”, arguing “no wonder they call him Dodgy Dave”. Skinner was interrupted by Cameron who made this ageist comment, calling the MP for Bolsover “Jurrasic Park.” This isn’t the first time the PM has directed such a remark at Skinner; in 2012 he had to apologise after calling the Bolsover MP a “dinosaur”. You […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit