Parliament & Politics: `Groundhog Day' meets `Nightmare at Westminster'

The Sketch

OVER THE past few days Parliament has come to seem like an unusually stupefying remake of Groundhog Day, the amiable Hollywood comedy in which Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a temporal loop in a small American town.

You may recall that in the film Murray wakes up each day and finds that he is doomed to repeat the same actions and exchange the same banal dialogue with the town's inhabitants, whom he despises as hicks. They too are fixed in a single groove of the record of their lives, the needle rotating endlessly without ever moving on.

In Pre-Budget Statement Day the Murray role is taken by Gordon Brown, who has now found himself in the House on four successive afternoons, repeating the same identical phrases - "boom and bust" and "steering a course for stability" being the particular favourites.

Every day he has reminded the opposition of their economic record, every day he has waved the same statistic about interest rates in their faces, apparently oblivious to the fact he told them yesterday and the day before that. The point of Groundhog Day was that the Murray character knew he was trapped, while everyone else didn't - but in the remake, yesterday exists for nobody.

The opposition are playing their part, too, with Francis Maude inseparable from his alliterative cat-call of "fantasy forecasting", first unveiled on Monday and subsequently given a daily excursion to the despatch box.

As in the original film, there are tiny variations from day to day; the announcement of a drop in interest rates yesterday meant that Mr Brown was able to look a little more ebullient as he listened to the angry denunciations from the other side - here was a man who had unexpectedly been allowed to write his initials on his porridge with Golden Syrup. He knew that today, at least, the opposition couldn't demand when they might be coming down. The Chancellor had also turned up a fresh embarrassment for his opposite number, reminding the House, after a Eurosceptic intervention, that the autograph on the offending section of the Maastricht treaty had belonged to one Francis Maude. Mr Maude looked deeply unhappy at this revelation, like an adulterer who has just been shown a damning entry in a hotel register by his wife's divorce lawyer.

But unlike the original film, these meagre variations effect no larger alteration in the plot, they simply emphasise the grinding circularity of every other exchange. Even the accidental details are beginning to repeat themselves. On Wednesday, Rhodri Morgan's mobile phone bleeped out from the back row of the Labour benches, prompting one junior minister to quip that his campaign to be elected First Minister in Wales was already underway.

Yesterday, at almost the same hour of the day and from almost exactly the same position, Hilton Dawson's jacket suddenly chirruped loudly, prompting a sheepish flurry for the off button. At such moments the sense of deja vu hardens into utter conviction - we have been here before.

The mood of temporal dislocation isn't helped by the fact that the chamber is a place in which time has all the rigidity of a Slinky spring - occasionally tightly compacted but more often stretched out so far that it seems unlikely that it will ever be able to recoil again.

The most impressive longueuryesterday was during a question by Sir Peter Tapsell, a meandering interrogation which seemed at one point as if it might totter on until close of business. Sir Peter proceeded towards his point like a sedated lab-rat negotiating an unfamiliar maze. When, after many false turns, he finally made it, a Labour voice mockingly shouted out: "Would you repeat that?" He will, and so will everyone else.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game