Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Rev Paul Flowers tops the agenda – not to Labour a point
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt.
Wednesday 20 November 2013
A new Prime Ministerial human shield is born! Len McCluskey is so last week! Enter the colourful, substances-prone, Labour-friendly Rev Paul Flowers, lately of the Co-op. Allotted the first question at Prime Ministers Questions, Conservative Steve Brine declared: “MPs across the House will have grave concerns about the nightmare unfolding at the Co-operative bank.” This was not quite accurate, since Tory MPs were ecstatic.
David Cameron got the statesmanlike bit over first – promising an enquiry – to make way for the stand-up. Asked by Ed Miliband about the PM having campaigned against the closure of a cuts-threatened Chipping Norton children’s centre in his constituency (“We all wish [him] luck in his fight as a local MP. Imagine what he could achieve if he were Prime Minister of the country!”) Cameron declared that Labour had “spent its bank levy ten times over” to fund its pledges. “It’s not a policy, it’s a night out with Rev Flowers.” Boom, Boom.
Miliband then cited the “nearly £5m from Michael Spencer, whose company was found to be rigging Libor” and much else, before gleefully quoting the Tory minister Nick Boles’ suggestion that Conservatives were “seen as the party of the rich”.
But when Labour’s Michael Meacher announced that “according to the Economist, Britain is now 159th lowest in the world in terms of business investment, just behind Mali, Paraguay and Guatemala”, Cameron’s less than Prime Ministerial suggestion was that Meacher had enjoyed “a night out on the town with Rev Flowers and the mind-altering substances have taken effect”. This provoked righteous Labour indignation with Ed Balls mouthing “Have you taken cocaine?” – a reference to Cameron’s rumoured past.
Asked by Labour’s Karl Turner to congratulate Hull on becoming City of Culture, Cameron cited its artistic icons from Larkin to the Housemartins, recalling the latter’s “great” London 0 Hull 4. Predictably, ex-Housemartin Paul Heaton was quick to tweet his dismay at Cameron’s namechecking an album that urges purchasers to “take Marx”. Ah, the perils of being a Tory PM who actually had a youth.
All in all, not much sex but a lot of drugs. And a bit of rock and roll.
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