Usually, the questions are, shall we say, not of the highest quality and the event is treated as a chance for members to let off steam, to throw indiscriminate insults at Nick Clegg. He is, actually, a human being. Not that you'd think that from some of the claptrap that flies around the place. John Bercow really should do something about it as it's actually embarrassing. I'm not sure Nick would thank him if he did, though.
I cringed with shame as my MP, Graeme Morrice, asked the most pointless question imaginable. This is the Mother of Parliaments where he has the chance to hold the Government to account. People here fear for their jobs, they are being affected by cuts in welfare (many of which I don't support), they may have relatives out in Iraq, or Afghanistan. There are many actual issues which people here worry about. So what was Morrice's question?
Now that the Deputy Prime Minister is even less popular than the Swiss entry in the recent Eurovision contest—at least they got 19 points—what immediate plans does he have to redeem himself in the public eye? Moreover, what principle or value is he not prepared to sell out over in his quest to cling to power?Barely playground quality that one and given the fact that he stumbled over its delivery, I think Morrice knew it too. He was, however, ably put in his place by Nick Clegg:
Well read and well rehearsed! I will tell the hon. Gentleman one thing that I am not going to flinch from for one minute, and that is to clear up the mess left by Labour. Because of the sheer economic incompetence of the Labour party in government, this country, on the backs of our children and grandchildren, is borrowing £400 million a day. He might think that is okay; I do not.
I always thought that the Labour party was against bastions of privilege and patronage. I thought that one of the founding principles of the so-called progressive party was that it believed that the British people should be in charge, not politicians in Westminster. Labour Members seem to be turning their backs, yet again, on one of their many long-standing traditions.
It wasn't just the Lords reform that strained the intellects on the opposition benches. Chi Onwurah attacked the Government for wasting money on elected mayors and police commissioners. Remind me, which Labour Government was it that introduced elected Mayors, the Brown on or the Blair one? Honestly!
Chris Bryant always likes to be Nick's nemesis at this event and today was no difference. He had a barbed question about appointments to the Lords to get the reform through:
The thing we find most bizarre about all this is that it is a priority for the Government at this time. The coalition agreement states that they will continue to appoint peers to the House of Lords
“with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.”
There are currently 792 unelected peers, after a year of the fastest level of appointment of new peers in the history of this country. To get to the objective set out in the agreement, the Deputy Prime Minister would have to appoint another 269. Are there another 97 Liberal Democrats to make peers in the House of Lords? Should there not be a moratorium?
Nick's snappy reply had a touch of the juvenile about it - but it's about time Bryant had a taste of his own medicine:
Every time the hon. Gentleman asks a question, I find it more and more baffling why anyone should want to hack his phone and listen to his messages. It is quite extraordinary. The point he has just made illustrates why we need to reform the House of Lords
There were some sensible questions, though, to make the session worth Nick turning up for. Stella Creasy asked about the rule of law, in a clear reference to John Hemming and Nick's answer was a clear rebuke to his own MP, saying that as legislators they can change the law but they have to abide by it.
Jo Swinson asked for and was given reassurance that there would be no watering down of the Equality Act.
Ming Campbell asked about the West Lothian Question - and wanted, and got an assurance that Wales and Northern Ireland would be covered.
A Tory MP, yes, a Tory, asked about improving access to elected office for disabled people.
Let's hope that next month's session has more of the constructive, information seeking questions and less of the grandstanding and abuse. I won't be holding my breath on that one.