Prime Minister Questions
I came out the ballot with a question to ask the Prime Minister. You are aware that this is technically the set piece occasion that more people watch relevant to Parliament. So you want to be drawn…and then once you are drawn, you start to worry about what question to go on, how to frame it and how successful it will be or otherwise.
Apparently, Sebastian Coe, the successful athlete used to competing and doing television interviews went completely blank with his first PMQ. I also heard recently about a Tory who got so many questions in a short space of time, on his last effort ended up asking a really bland one about asparagus farmers. This was because his whips wouldn’t allow awkward questions to be asked.
Fortunately, I had no constraints – no-one in the SNP interferes and of course I am allowed to criticise the Government. I opted to compare the concessions the DUP have gained from the UK Government, to the Scottish Tories. I highlighted that the Scottish Budget has been cut by £2.5bn pounds in real terms, [confirmed by the independent House of Commons Library], we are due £140m VAT refund for Police and Fire Services, £200m CAP convergence and £600m rail budget shortfall. This I suggested means that each Scottish Tory MP costs Scotland £265m. It is a real eye opener when put together.
According to an article in a book by Paul Flynn MP, you should make your point and then finish on a question that is completely unanswerable. I achieved this by asking the PM if we “can free transfer them?” This rounded my question off as I started with a football analogy and finished it that way and of course the PM cannot physically answer. At the time it seemed to work and so I sat down relieved. Such is the nature of PMQs I could not hear the PM response due to a mix of laughter, shouting and cat calling, but I was confident that I did not agree with her answer!
Well, what a farce that when the PM is ready to announce she has concluded the first phase of talks, the DUP tell her they are not happy and she has to come home with her tail between her legs. The DUP claim they will not accept any regulatory differences between Northern Ireland and the UK. Yet, they want to have a different corporation tax so they can set it at the same rate as Ireland; they want to have a VAT regime different from the UK so they can match Ireland; they do not recognise the 1967 Abortion Act, and citizens in Northern Ireland can claim and Irish passport and hence an EU passport when other UK citizens cannot. So, there is no chance of ever knowing what the DUP really want.
Luckily a fudge was agreed at the end of the week but it still does not bode well for the future.
These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard 14 December 2017