Chris Bryant: The Tories' clustershambles is all very entertaining, but Cameron needs to get a grip



Political misfortunes rarely come in isolation. If anything, they prefer to breed. That's certainly how it feels watching the Coalition Government fall so spectacularly into its slough of despond. It's not even as if anybody else tripped them up. Every element of the present malaise has been a home-grown Jack and Jill-style tumble. The NHS Bill, the petrol panic, the botched Budget, Theresa's May Day (in April). These were all unforced errors.

There was no campaign to put VAT on hot pasties, or cut the VAT on ski lifts, or leave the VAT on caviar at nil. Nor was there a public clamour to cap tax relief on charitable giving, however much lurking resentment there is that millionaires don't pay their fair share of tax. Nor did anybody demand that Abu Qatada be arrested on Tuesday rather than Wednesday, however much we want him out of our hair – and our country.

But in the political equivalent of the 100-yard dash, Lansley, Maude, Osborne and May forgot to lace their plimsolls up. They forgot to do the basics, check the facts, work out the anomalies, consult the book of unintended consequences – and came a cropper. So steady has been the stream of pratfalls that it has started to look synchronised.

But it's also at these sorts of times that you get the real measure of a leader. Some leaders find immense extra physical and emotional resources in a crisis. They become more attentive to detail.

But with Cameron, things seem to be going in the opposite direction. If anything, he has now become openly contemptuous of detail. Witness his ludicrous claim that the 50p rate of tax had not raised any money at all. And there was one very revealing moment in Prime Minister's Questions this week. The beady-eyed Tory MP Douglas Carswell asked a mildly humorous question about whether Yes, Prime Minister was true to life and Cameron, looking angry, shot back a response as tart as a mouthful of limes: "I think the Hon Gentleman does need a sense of humour." Of itself, of course, one hoity-toity gibe does not a Shakespearean downfall make, but unless he gets a grip, the blunders will start breeding and he will have a right old clustershambles on his hands. Then Cameron's days will be numbered – and Theresa won't be doing the counting.

By the grace of Gorgeous George

George Galloway took his seat on Monday. As required, he had to declare his allegiance to the Queen and her lawful successors, which, as in court, he could do either by swearing on the Bible or the Koran or by affirming. Despite his religious views, including his assertion in the West Bradford by-election that he was elected "by the grace of God", he decided to leave God out of it. To be honest, I have no idea why most MPs still swear their allegiance. After all, Jesus condemned the swearing of oaths in the Sermon on the Mount with his injunction that "Let your yes be a yes and your no a no", and anyway many MPs are at best agnostic. Besides, I've never been convinced that just because someone swears something on the Bible it provides any greater surety. A liar is a liar.

Another break from PMQs

I know MPs aren't exactly "on holiday" when Parliament isn't sitting as there is always constituency work to be done, but ministers are relieved when they don't have to face the Commons. Which is why it is so disturbing that Parliament looks set to get yet another break on top of Easter and the May Day and Jubilee bank holidays. This is because the Government has run out of business and is intending to prorogue Parliament early, possibly on 1 May, giving the PM two more PMQ-free weeks.

It would mean we would sit for just 14 days out of 75. Harrumph.

Lords reform is long overdue

I gather Tories are all wound up about Lords reform. One, Andrew Rosindell, has said he won't vote for anything that would remove Margaret Thatcher from Parliament. Leaving aside the fact that he's just given me yet another reason to vote for reform, I'm amazed that Tories are backing themselves into the most ludicrous position of all. The House of Lords, that great symbol of patronage, cronyism and religious bigotry, is now completely illogical and unsustainable. It has already grown to be the largest political assembly in the world. Its membership is based on the greasing of palms and the favouritism either of this generation (the life peers), or another era (the hereditary peers) and its much-vaunted "expertise" is often out of date or extremely partial. Some of my best friends are peers, but it really is time for change.

Fishy business of health and safety

There are few phrases that irritate me more than "health and safety gone mad", but I was tearing my hair out yesterday because Welsh Water, which owns a beautiful reservoir above Maerdy at the top end of the Rhondda Fach, has decided that the road up to the reservoir is too dangerous and therefore, for health and safety reasons, the Maerdy Fishing Club can no longer use the reservoir. Since the road is in exactly the same condition as it has always been and there have been no accidents, it is clear that all that has changed is the mindset of the health and safety commissars in the company. Could we persuade the two men from Welsh Water to change their mind? No, of course not. They just repeated the same old flimsy line. Since the place would be safer with the fishing club presence, I'm determined to change the company's mind. So if anyone fancies joining my protest, which I'm terming a fish-in called Rhondda – get in touch.


React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'