Kerry’s Guide to PMQs

There is no other way of putting it… it’s an absolutely lousy draw for PMQs this week. The statisticians amongst you will no doubt be able to explain what the odds are of only getting two Labour MPs on the order paper when more or less the same number of Labour and Tory MPs submitted questions (c.200 MPs participating in the ballot, 15 MPs drawn). Anyway here it is, a sea of blue. Add Cameron and Clegg to the mix, and lots of opportunities for random Labour backbenchers to seek to catch the Speaker’s eye. See last week’s post if you haven’t quite sussed how it works yet.

1. Mike Penning

2. Mark Pritchard

3. Graham Brady

4. Brooks Newmark

5. Gregory Campbell (DUP)

6. Bob Spink (UKIP)

7. Julian Lewis (with a specific question about mental health units)

8. David Amess

9. Jeff Ennis

10. David Borrow

11. Norman Lamb

12. Andrew Selous

13. Mark Hoban

14. David Heath

15. Edward Garnier

I have no idea what any of the backbenchers will ask. Cameron will no doubt challenge the Prime Minister over what the lazy have dubbed Lobbygate but what I prefer to see as Labour’s version of Fatal Attraction – just when you think the ultra-Blairites are dead, they lunge back into life, wielding another knife. Until the wife comes in and shoots them.

I’ll be on the front bench for the duration, as it’s Northern Ireland questions first. And then of course it’s the Budget. Don’t forget, it’s Cameron who replies to the Budget statement, not Osborne. If you manage to catch a glimpse of the Tory front bench during the Chancellor’s speech, you will see Letwin and Osborne frantically scribbling away, crossing out the bits of Cameron’s speech which no longer apply, adding some back of a fag packet calculations, while the clock ticks away. Cameron just sits there looking blank. After Cameron it will be a Labour speaker, almost certainly John McFall in his swansong as Chair of the Treasury Select Committee. And then it will be Vince Cable.* The debate continues on Thursday, with Ed Miliband kicking off for the Government, on Monday with Yvette Cooper, and concludes on Tuesday with Ed Balls and Liam Byrne.

*I mis-remembered this, thinking of what happens at the PBR. It was of course Clegg, as party leader, who responded for the Libs, followed by John McFall. And I was also wrong about what Cameron would ask. Sir John Butterfill, by the way, who also featured in the Dispatches programme, was watching the debate from a safe perch up in the gallery, presumably so as to avoid anyone pointing him out).

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