Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The queen of karaoke

Harriet Harman just said to me at the vote now, "I hear you're into karaoke"! Can I just make absolutely clear that this is not true. Not at all. Every now and again the 5/5/5/ intake get together for a social, which on occasion includes karaoke - and I'm the one sat in the corner, adamantly refusing to join in. Not drinking may have something to do with it.

Anyway, Harriet says it was definitely me her source was talking about, but maybe it wasn't karaoke after all... the mind boggles. (Actually I think Tom Harris and some of the 2001 intake quite enjoy the odd karaoke session too. But not me.)

PMQs today was low-key, as expected. David Cameron, for the first time, impressed me as a human being; he came across as very genuine, and not at all pre-rehearsed talking about Ivan. Questions were on Northern Ireland, on which there is broad consensus, and then onto the rather more contentious issue of rendition. Nick Clegg went on the French decision re NATO; not sure that would have any resonance with the great British public, more a reflection of his own personal interests. I was told an anecdote by a Tory MP recently: Nick Clegg went in to see his boss at the European Commission, Sir Leon Brittan, to announce that he'd been selected for a parliamentary seat and would therefore have to leave work. 'Congratulations' boomed Brittan, 'You'll be an asset to the party'. At which point Nick had to explain that he was actually going to be standing as a Liberal Democrat.

A bit of light relief from all the statesmanship came when the Lib Dem MP for Chesterfield namechecked the neighbouring seat, Bolsover, in a question about concessionary bus fares, and then the Speaker called Dennis Skinner to put the boot in. But the best moment came just before PMQs when David Taylor asked the Welsh Secretary about the Barnett formula. Paul Murphy replied dryly that 'the Barnett formula has been in place for the past thirty years and you've been asking questions about it for the past ten', much to the amusement of Joel Barnett (now Lord Barnett) who was sitting up in the public gallery. I'm sure he had no idea when he introduced the formula as a fairly junior Treasury minister that he'd still be getting namechecks thirty years later.

Anyway - busy day from now onwards so no more blogging.


Bristol Dave said...

As you say, PMQs was as expected.

As someone who lives in England, the Barnett Formula has always annoyed me and I hope eventually it will be reviewed. One example used is that English tuition fees are not only funding English student places but also Scottish ones, but Scottish students don't pay anything. If someone can explain how this is even remotely fair, I'd love to know. MPs can't shy away from both the Barnett Formula and the West Lothian question, and this stupid fake forced-diplomacy in avoiding debate on the issue drives me nuts.

Dave H said...

Guido had live chat during PMQs and from his comments on it OH only had eyes for you, Kerry. He’s plainly smitten.

Dare we think it? Could we be witnessing the start of something beautiful?

You could do worse, literally speaking.

The Grim Reaper said...

So that's what Hattie does when she's not plotting against your boss?

Chris Paul said...

How is the tuition fees difference north/south of the border fair? Or the prescriptions charges? or the social care differences Bristol Dave?

We might as well discuss the differences between neighbouring NHS trusts or PCTs.

When we give different regions choice there will inevitably be differences in what they choose to do with their budgets. Doh!

I'd be happy myself with a universal high-quality offering instead of choice or "Control" as Liam Byrne (I think) is now pushing. But if you devolve choices you get differences.

And the Barnett Formula is not as unfair as all that. But if you're having a go then think London which AFAIK does best of all.

Bristol Dave said...

And the Barnett Formula is not as unfair as all that. But if you're having a go then think London which AFAIK does best of all.

There are differences in public spending between areas of England, but these are not the fault of the Barnett Formula specifically.

The specific results of the Barnett Formula are that public spending per capita in 2006/2007 was:

* England £7,121
* Scotland £8,623
* Wales £8,139
* Northern Ireland £9,385

To suggest this is down to England/Scotland "choosing what to do with their budgets" is ridiculous, it's redistribution none of us have a choice in, down to a formula that seemingly nobody is allowed to argue with, just because traditionally it's been avoided.