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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea