Goodbye to the Speaker

I was in the Chamber today for the Speaker’s statement, and the tributes to him on his retirement. I thought Gordon’s speech was very moving. The less said about Nick Clegg’s the better. Obviously it would have been insincere of him to have paid a glowing tribute, seeing as he’d called for Michael Martin to go, and he acknowledged that, but I would have thought he could have managed more than two minutes (most of which was a party political broadcast for the Liberal Democrats). Cameron was smooth and shallow, and managed to fill the time without really saying anything. But Gordon was very good, talking with genuine feeling about how Michael Martin had risen from humble origins and, against the odds, achieved high office. (Clegg tried to suggest the Speaker and Ming Campbell came from almost the same place; geographically maybe, but not in any other sense).
I was sitting very near the Speaker, and he was obviously deeply moved by what Gordon said, to the extent that it was a relief when Gordon made a joke about other MPs being asked to roadtest the Speaker’s branded whiskey (he’s teetotal). He looked considerably steelier during Cameron and Clegg’s ‘tributes’. I think I’m right in saying that – by sheer coincidence I’m sure! – not a single Tory backbencher who was not on the order paper was called at PMQs today. Only Cameron, Lee Scott (who Cameron allegedly refers to as his ‘bit of rough’) and John Randall – aka the only Tory with a bushy beard – got to speak. And the Speaker may have allowed himself a little flicker of schadenfreude when Cameron not only gave us an open goal but virtually ran out of the goalmouth shouting ‘here it is, shoot!’ (That is, his admission it’s a Europe-wide recession, although actually it’s global).
Speaking of football, I was at the Labour gala dinner at Chelsea FC on Thursday night. Apart from stalking Jimmy Choo (very small and wearing rather disappointingly ordinary black brogues although I’m not sure quite what I expected) and chatting to Hattie, aka Holly from Red Dwarf (very nice, rather shy), I also got into conversation with someone called Scott Minto who I now know is quite a famous ex-footballer. Eddie Izzard gave an entertaining after-dinner speech, during which he announced his intention to run for King of China in fifteen years time.
During pre-dinner drinks someone had thoughtfully laid on a few footballs so that we could have a kick around on the pitch. I managed one goal, but that was before the goalie arrived. Still, in 4″ heels, it was quite an achievement; unfortunately Mr Choo missed it. Then the lads arrived: Douglas, Hilary and Andy taking shots and David Miliband performing surprisingly well in goal. Eventually I had to march onto the pitch and threaten to take their ball away unless they came in for dinner. And they obeyed! Oh, the power of being a whip.
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