PMQs: False start as MPs return to battle

As part of a brand new offering to avid readers of our blog - tinged with a dash of self-indulgence - we at VANBAR associates will provide a brief (and when possible humorous) round-up of Prime Minister's Questions each Wednesday between now and the summer recess in late July.  If it works, we'll keep it going from September.  Here's what happened today.


Starved of PMQs for more than two months, today was supposed to be the day when a cast of newly-elected MPs burst into our living rooms to wow us with their wit, wisdom and contempt for Parliamentary procedure.  But sadly it wasn't really to be.

Following the death of Charles Kennedy earlier in the week, the House - to its credit - wasn't really in the mood.  A special session to enable MPs to pay personal tribute to the former Liberal Democrat Leader had been arranged for later in the afternoon, and most minds seemed to be on that than the normal cut and thrust which will surely return next week.  

Despite the sombre air in the Chamber, Prime Minister David Cameron did demonstrate continued evidence of a returned Mojo (it's funny what an election victory can do for a man).  He still didn't answer any questions, of course.  But he just looked more confident in not doing so.          

As for stand-in Labour Leader Harriet Harman, she - like the vast majority of her backbenchers - just looked miserable.  And her questions were little different than poor Ed Miliband used to trot out in the weeks leading up to the General Election.  It's going to a long road back for Her Majesty's Official Opposition, and one suspects Ms Harman is rather relieved that she'll be taking a back seat when the journey starts with a new front man or woman come the autumn.

SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson is someone whose face you'll get used to seeing more of in the months and years ahead.  Following his party's resounding success last month - taking all but three seats north of the border - the former BBC journalist is now entitled to ask Mr Cameron two questions at every PMQs.  And today, the word "Scotland" never left his lips, instead concentrating his efforts on the fate of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean.   His bald SNP colleague Patrick Grady filled the void later in the session, standing up in his tartan tie to shout the name of his native land lots of times at a bemused Prime Minister.  Expect Mr Robertson to be similarly less statesmanlike on Wednesdays to come.

New MPs are not entitled to ask oral questions on the floor of the House until they have delivered their maiden speech, and some will wait weeks for the opportunity.  As a result, the number of unfamiliar Members on their feet today was limited.  But, aside from Mr Grady, there were two of note.  Cat Smith (Labour,  Lancaster & Fleetwood) looked very much like a Sunday school teacher.  And Flick Drummond (Conservative, Portsmouth South) bore all the hallmarks of a church organist.  Perhaps they go to the same church.