The Sketch: Noise pollution drowns out Hoon

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The Independent Online

Ah, it's Hoon again, we're in safe hands. He'll get us a new runway at Heathrow if anyone can. When it comes to tough, serious, long-term decisions, he's the man. He got us into Iraq all right didn't he?

His smooth, plausible statement promised great green things to the House. Up behind him though, it looked like John McDonnell was going to go off in 45 minutes – and blow me that's just what happened.

Hoon is going to increase flights by half but reduce carbon emissions by 80 cent. He's going to bump up landings and take-offs but decrease noise and pollution. And this great carbon-destroying runway will only be used half the time. It'll be a great source of jobs, environmental virtue, sleepier nights and easy travel.

It'll be... "An absolute disgrace!" McDonnell yelled when it came to his turn. He's a Labour backbencher and had, like many London MPs, steam coming out of his nostrils. Terrific sight. His constituents (Hayes and Harlington) would "lose their homes, schools, churches and cemeteries"! All the stuff about the environment was "spin!" Or as he put it, "SPIN!" He wanted a debate, he wanted a vote. (What? In the House of Commons?)

Hoon began with some suave remarks about the House never voting "on quasi-judicial matters" but his argument disappeared under McDonnell's gargling cries for democracy. It was an issue for the country, Hoon protested. "This IS the country!" McDonnell yelled, indicating the House around him.

He was pointing and shouting and laying hands on the Mace, lifting it out of its place and putting it where Dennis Skinner normally sits. It may be that the House then was technically not sitting and McDonnell, by a procedural nicety, was allowed to hit the minister right fat in the middle of his comfortable jurisprudence.

Oh, what a deplorable scene, it warmed this sketch-writer's bones. Now, somewhere in the undergrowth there is a group of MPs that meets under the name of Parliament First. Their aim is "to hold the executive to account". They had a launch, wrote a book and went home. They are once more planning to seize the agenda. Or, to wave at it from a respectful distance. They have formed something called a Steering Committee.

We should wish them well; or equally call them a bunch of useless, washed-up toss-pots in the hope that they might be stung into displaying some fraction of McDonnell's vigour.

No, you can't seize the Mace as a matter of course. But Parliament isn't going to be re-invented by forming a committee. "Holding the executive to account" is a revolutionary act. If they really want a lawful coup, what about David Howarth's idea of blocking government business until demands are met? But they don't really want it. If they did, they'd do it.