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

January 8, 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 Freelancing needs a policy agenda of its own

    Freelancing needs a policy agenda of its own

    The self employed are often the ‘most entrepreneurial, go-getting people in Britain’ . That is what Ed Milliband said during his conference speech when he placed a commitment to the self employed and albeit freelance workers at the heart of his election pledges for the general election. One of Labour’s six pledges is to provide equal rights to the self employment. As Ed Mililband noted ‘two out of three don’t have a pension, one in five can’t get a mortgage. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Cameron’s pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act shows he’s legally illiterate

    Cameron’s pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act shows he’s legally illiterate

    In a crowded field, there is one issue which can always evoke splenetic outrage in the Daily Mail and the Tory backbenches: the Human Rights Act. And so it came as no surprise that its abolition ‘once and for all’ formed an integral part of David Cameron’s speech to the Tory conference. He had a simple pitch: the UK government is being told what to do, not by its own Courts but by Strasbourg. So we need a British Bill […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Cameron’s Tax Cut is a Tax Con – but it’ll be popular, and highlights Labour’s missed opportunity

    Cameron’s Tax Cut is a Tax Con – but it’ll be popular, and highlights Labour’s missed opportunity

    David Cameron’s conference speech today was well-delivered, punchy and memorable. It had a clear top line to grab the evening news headlines, and his populist tax cuts will be the overwhelming focus of tomorrow’s front pages. This was cheese to Miliband’s chalk. Whilst the Labour leader appeared to lack energy last week, and his headline announcement leaked in advance (and wasn’t sufficiently headline-grabbing to grab headlines), Cameron was surprisingly pumped up, energetic and forceful. He was also doling out policy like […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Dismantling Britain’s despotism

    Dismantling Britain’s despotism

    The fictional town of Dunchester is the scene for a right-wing science-fiction novel by nineteenth century author H. Rider Haggard. It is also the site for a fantasy game used to recruit and train British civil servants. The Tory novel is about radicals trying to block experts and professionals from saving Dunchester from an epidemic of plague. The civil service game allows players to spend £20 million in regenerating a fake town with the same name. Players take the role […]

    Read more →
  • News Video “This is who we resent” – David Cameron lets slip what he actually thinks

    “This is who we resent” – David Cameron lets slip what he actually thinks

    Unfortunate Freudian slip for David Cameron during his Conference speech today: “This party is the trade union for children from the poorest estates and the most chaotic homes; this party is the union for the young woman who wants an apprenticeship; teenagers who want to make something of their lives – this is who we resent.”

    Read more →
7ads6x98y