Readers of a certain age will remember the popular British children’s TV hand puppet Edd the Duck, whose amusing but ultimately pointless quacking entertained young minds after school. Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions saw Ed Miliband prove that the conviction of the PM’s former Director of Communications Andy Coulson was not so much about phone hacking but rather a chance for some similarly lame Edd the Duck quacking.
Proceedings were kicked off by Damian Collins (Con, Folkestone and Hythe) who was a member of the committee that initially investigated phone hacking. He pointed out that Coulson has lied to his committee about his involvement in phone hacking and called for “redress of grievance for the victims” whilst “maintaining a free press”. Cameron took the opportunity to repeat his apology of yesterday before Ed the (lame) duck quacked one off.
He started by claiming that Coulson “brought disgrace to Downing Street” and asked what actions the Prime Minister took after the Guardian exposed phone hacking “on an industrial scale”. Cameron came back by pointing out that he accepted assurances that had also satisfied police. He also read a section of Leveson saying that he was not warned by the Guardian and another that made clear he was “not to blame” for Coulson’s actions.
What followed was a whole raft of quackers questions about issues covered in the inquiry that exonerated the Prime Minister. What action did he take when he was warned by the Deputy Prime Minister? What actions did he take when the New York Times talked about phone hacking? Why wasn’t Coulson vetted more vigorously when he was given the job in number ten? Did any Civil Servants raise concerns about him hiring Andy Coulson?
Quack, quack, quack…
The Prime Minister batted each one off with ease by pointing out that this had all been investigated, and Ed the (lame) Duck had supported the inquiry. Conservative MPs shouted “weak” at Ed, leading Speaker Bercow to come to his friend’s defence.
Cameron then suggested that Ed was just disappointed that the eight month long inquiry that cost £5m had not come up with the result he had wanted. Barbecued duck anyone?
Backbench contributions came from Nigel Evans (Con, Ribble Valley) who proved he remains a major force in the House of Commons chamber by an asking for the house to “never ever underestimate the value of our armed forces”. Guy Opperman (Con, Hexham) demanded fairer funding for schools in Northumberland.
Ronnie Campbell (Lab, Blyth) and Yasmin Qureshi (Lab, Bolton South-East) both repeated questions already asked by Ed the (lame) Duck. They had clearly misread the briefing, and were despatched with even more ease than their leader had been.
Overall: Edd the Duck was a popular character for many children, but what amuses young minds does not cut the mustard in the adult world. Today his broom cupboard is closed down and the quacking hand puppet has now been retired and almost forgotten. After this performance it’s clear Ed the (lame) Duck Miliband is soon to follow his namesake.
Speaker Bercow was unbearable, with a number of interruptions and a long winded statement on whether the issue of Andy Coulson could be discussed at all. Will he ever miss an opportunity to muscle in on an important occasion?