Building bridges to rescue stranded rail passengers

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Indy Politics
Labour stars like Angela Eagle and Gwyneth Dunwoody had dressed up for transport questions. The bobbed Ms Eagle was in navy blue jacket and light blue shirt, looking like a smart wardress from Prisoner Cell Block H. Ms Dunwoody was in a stunning purple outfit, making her look (as she sat - ripely - on the green leather) like a Victoria plum, ready for canning.

They were there for fun. Such as when Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes (C, Wimbledon), former Silver Stick Medical Officer with the Life Guard (one can only guess what the stick was used for), drew attention to the "gross incompetence" of South West Trains. But (he asserted) this "unexceptional exception" proved the rule that privatisation was better than what preceded it. It was, he thundered, "in stark contrast to the bad old days", when there were strikes and militancy and suchlike abominations. "At least you knew when your train was going to be cancelled," quipped Tony Banks.

John Owen Jones (Cardiff Central), one of Labour's high-flyers (small beard - sanctimonious manner) raised the question of a constituent of his who - en route for Aldershot - found himself "stranded in Ascot". The generously girthed junior minister, John Watts (who resembles in speech, demeanour and posture a slightly dim Essex police desk sergeant addressing a student meeting), sympathised - but opined that "as someone who lives in Ascot, there are worse places to be stranded".

This was either a piece of spontaneous idiocy (of course there are worse places to be stranded than where you live - like almost anywhere else for instance) - or an open invitation for other distressed Welsh travellers to stop over at the Wattses for a cup of tea and a Viennese Whirl.

But one place, above all, seemed to feature in Labour attacks on the Ministeriat. It was first mentioned by Stephen Timms, the 18ft-tall Labour sixth-former from Newham (whose family hope he will stop growing soon, since the Chamber microphones keep on getting entangled in his hair). Were there plans, he demanded, for a new road bridge "over the river Lea"?

He was followed by Islington's own Jeremy Corbyn, elegantly turned out in taupe wind-cheater, with a fetching chocolate corduroy collar. There were real safety concerns on the North London Line, he told the House, occasioned by problems with a railway bridge - "over the river Lea".

It seems that the demand for a new bridge to be built on the river Lea is now overwhelming. But since - under Labour - there can be no public money made available for this venture, and since things Japanese are now very popular with the Opposition, I began to toy with a solution involving redundant Tory MPs being marched to the banks of the Lea, and put to work building a new bridge.

Just as I dismissed this thought as inhumane, David Evans - the controversial MP for Welwyn 'an 'Atfield - entered the Chamber, and stood there for several minutes, eyeing fellow MPs with ill-disguised bellicosity; probably thinking up disreputable epithets for use the next time he meets some sixth-formers.

When Labour's Keith Bradley (short beard, curate's intensity) rose for a harmless little rant, I caught Mr Evans either brushing the lapel of his jacket rhythmically - or making a very vulgar gesture.

Suddenly I pictured him - sweat-stained in his khaki fatigues - up to his waist in the turbid waters of the Lea, sinking piles and hauling timbers.

Next to him toiled a bent John Marshall, a humbled Jacques "buzz-saw" Arnold and a silenced Lady Olga Maitland. All of them - at last - doing something useful.