Donald Macintyre's Sketch: The last PMQs before Christmas. Thank goodness it comes round only once a year

 

Ah, the last Prime Minister’s Questions of the year. MPs always find it impossible not to overdo the festive references, as though they had just been given uniquely privileged inside information that Christmas was only a week away. There is the frankly obsequious kind, such as Therese Coffey’s: “Thank you for calling me, Mr Speaker, and a merry Christmas to you and your family. The people of Suffolk have enjoyed a cracker of a Christmas present with the excellent news on the A14 [not becoming a toll road]...” Then there is the beseeching, as in her fellow Tory Stewart Jackson’s: “Will the Prime Minister give an early Christmas present to Peterborough people by giving his personal support to our bid for a university technical college.”

And there is the abusive-supposedly-hilarious, deployed in these exchanges between David Cameron and Ed Miliband: “Ah, we have a new hand gesture from the shadow Chancellor! [Ed Balls pointing downwards to denote falling living standards.] I would have thought that after today’s briefing in the papers the hand gesture for the Shadow Chancellor should be bye-bye.” (Prime Ministerial hand in flirtatious farewell wave with all his fingers oscillating in the manner of a 1930s film star, Greta Garbo perhaps or Tallulah Bankhead.)  This referred to anonymously sourced Shadow Cabinet reports that Balls is on the political equivalent of probation, but was anyway only a warm-up for the punchline: “You don’t need it to be Christmas to know when you’re sitting next to a turkey.”

Followed by Miliband, fighting to maintain the seasonal vibe: “I tell you what... that was a turkey of an answer... Childcare costs have gone up £300 in the past year... There is one group the Prime Minister has helped out with the cost of living this year: those on his Christmas card list.” As music hall comedians used to say on a bad night: “Don’t laugh too loud. It’s an old building!”

Fortunately for those of us tempted to run out shouting, like Scrooge, that anyone spouting this stuff “should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart”, there were some distinctly non-festive moments. Labour’s John McDonnell accused Cameron of having “lied to my constituents” by promising “no ifs, no buts, no third runway” at Heathrow. This was not only, as the PM said, “completely inappropriate” parliamentary language, but also inaccurate. After all there isn’t a third runway, is there? Just a report which would allow Cameron to perform a gigantic U-turn and build one after the election.

Another yule-free question from Tory John Whittingdale urged Cameron, reasonably enough, to salute “the courage of the hundreds of thousands of people” who have been protesting  in Ukraine, and to “hold out the prospect of closer links with Europe in the longer term... which is what the people of Ukraine want”.

In stark contrast to many of his backbench colleagues who want nothing of the kind, as he might have added. But for some reason didn’t.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin