It's not really cricket to say that the whole thing's a waste of time; we're supposed to look at it quietly and work out whether it works on its own terms. But Foreign Office questions is a complete waste of time and it's not just because of the Foreign Secretary.
Nor of his "team", that Santa's sack of soft toys the whips have dropped down his chimney. God, they have a mordant sense of humour, those Labour whips.
I haven't actually seen Gillian Merron in action before but she imitates early Flint (Caroline Flint, that is, whose style has moved on somewhat in the past five years). Merron has a new minister's manner that is supposed to look understated, unimpressible, unexcitable. She just looks sulky. And her glottal stoppery amounts to a speech impediment. If you were Ambassador to Washington meeting the Under Secretary of State for the Foreign Office for the first time you'd think: "Faaaarkinell!" Seriously you would. "Is this what modern Britain is?" And maybe it is.
Anyway. The questions. How to bring peace to the world. David Miliband took the lead. Now, I defy anyone to dislike David Miliband – in fact I'll give £1,000 to anyone who can honestly say they don't.
When he stands up and says he's looking for "a broader peace" in the Middle East "where all exercise their responsibilities" you just want to chuck things at him. He said he was going "to tell Syria they have important responsibilities". I think we'd all like to see that on television.
Insofar as it doesn't matter it didn't matter. Malcolm Rifkind's suggestion that he may be a twerp but a twerp that is endangering world peace (we all knew what he was saying) suddenly gave us a moment's pause.
Why encourage Georgia to become a member of Nato, he asked, if we weren't prepared to go to war to defend it? William Hague asked him to reconcile his two positions on Georgia within the past four weeks. Miliband said that, in the previous month he had "rightly referred to a range of criteria" and that now Britain was "able to pursue our aims of territorial integrity through the negotiations". Vast reverberating raspberry noises filled the chamber, audible only to sketch writers.
There was a moment there when Miliband was crossing the world stage with his own travelling spotlight. He might have been the incoming prime minister who took us to war against Russia! But he overshot and suddenly he was stumbling in the wings on the wrong side of the stage.Reuse content