Parliament: Words are elastic on the Westminster side of the looking glass
Mr Blair gave a fine demonstration of the principle yesterday. Most people would assume, for example, that the phrase "we got the beef ban lifted" implied something by putting both verbs in the past tense. Tory MPs clearly took this rather pedestrian view and gasped at the audacity of the Prime Minister in placing the phrase in such close proximity to an acknowledgement of the French government's continuing ban on British beef. They didn't appear to understand that "lifted" could enclose within it the secondary meaning "not lifted at all".
Similarly, when Mr Blair accused the Liberal Democrats of having "opposed" the New Deal and encountered a howl of injured innocence, a Prime Ministerial translation had to be offered. "Put it like this", he said wearily, as if dealing with a singularly pedantic bit of hair-splitting, "they opposed the way we raised the money for it". Asked a Eurosceptic question about Lord Levene of Portsoken's suggestion that the City was doing rather well outside the euro-zone, Mr Blair welcomed his "support for the Labour Government". "Support", "Failure to attack" - surely any fair-minded person would recognise these as effectively synonymous?
Mr Hague did rather better at piercing the yielding fabric of Mr Blair's statements yesterday than he has done for a while, making it quite clear at one point that the Prime Minister was out of his depth on tax plans for pensioners, and effectively mocking the Chancellor's furtive attempts to throw him a lifebelt. Mr Hague went further, talking darkly of the "standards of truthfulness and honesty" of the Government. But the great advantage of elastic rhetoric is that it helps you bounce back so quickly. If the session had begun with Alice, it ended with Aladdin - the Prime Minister recovering from his brief fluster to lead his party in a jolly call and response session. He genuinely hadn't known what he was talking about when he answered Mr Hague on married couples' allowance, but later on he pretended to be ignorant, reading out some recent remarks by John Redwood and asking for clarification as to whether they represented official Conservative policy. The Honourable Member for Wokingham had said that Labour's "big mistake" was to call for increased public spending. "Was it?" shouted Mr Blair, his face a mask of bafflement.
He wasn't finished with his questions either. The party opposite hadn't made it clear yet which particular Labour spending programmes they opposed. "Do they oppose child benefit?" he asked. "Yes!" roared Labour MPs, as strenuously as a coach party of seven-year-olds who have just been asked whether they believe in fairies. "Do they oppose the working family tax credit?" Mr Blair continued. "Yes!!" yelled the matinee crowd. "Do they oppose the New Deal" Mr Blair bellowed over the excited hubbub. "Yes!!!" they shouted, deafening this time since the slow-starters had finally woken up to what was expected of them. Mrs Thatcher, the Widow Twankey of British politics, was fond of such controlled exercises in audience participation. She has found a worthy successor in Tinkerblair.
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Ellen DeGeneres leads Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany in revealing game of Never Have I Ever
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...