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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hands on in Westminster

John Prescott's question time yesterday sounds like it was a real hoot. Tomos Livingstone in today's Western Mail reports that the Deputy Prime Minister described the opposition as resembling a public school sixth form and it certainly sounded as if that might be an accurate representation. Still, even politicians like to have fun occasionally and ridicule can be a very effective debating tactic if used properly.

If only the attempts by the Labour backbenchers to help him had been a little more competent:

In his first Commons question time in the new role and since his affair with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple, was revealed Mr Prescott said he had more work than Lord Heseltine had as deputy prime minister under John Major.

"I am doing far more than Lord Heseltine did. No complaints were made about Lord Heseltine at the time," Mr Prescott said, in a performance that was both combative and rueful.

Conservatives laughed when Dari Taylor, a Labour backbencher, asked if he would have a "hands on in those areas" of neighbourhood renewal.

Oliver Heald, the shadow constitution affairs secretary, said Mr Prescott was a "marriage guidance counsellor" between Mr Blair and Gordon Brown and the Labour party should pay his salary. Mr Heald said Mr Prescott had "still got three homes, two Jags and a fancy office in Whitehall". Mr Prescott replied: "Just for the record ... I have one house, one car -10 years old."

Rob Wilson, Tory MP for Reading East, asked Mr Prescott what action he would take to ensure that staff working under him were "not subject to sexual harassment or bullying". The Speaker, Michael Martin, blocked a question from the Tory frontbencher Andrew Robathan, who told Mr Prescott that Latin American leaders he met "would treat him with the same degree of ridicule as this house".

It is possible that these sessions may prove more popular than Prime Minister's Question Time.
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