Call for Colvile, man with the Midas touch...and the PM's ear
Prime Minister’s Questions sketch by London Editor Graeme Demianyk.
He's the man with the Midas touch, and the Westcountry's own Goldfinger appears to have done it again.
Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, is an affable chap. He also has the happy knack of getting results. The latest "win" is for veterans of the Second World War Arctic convoys, the seamen who over four years from 1941 kept open supply lines to Soviet ports but are barely recognised.
In Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, Mr Colvile pressed David Cameron: "Will he tell us what progress (diplomat) Sir John Holmes has made in his review of medals, especially for those who served on the Arctic convoys with bravery and endeavour?"
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The Prime Minister's response? Medals all round.
"On the Arctic convoys," Mr Cameron began, with the air of somebody handing out Christmas gifts. "Sir John has recommended, and I fully agree, that there should be an Arctic Convoy Star medal. I am very pleased that some of the brave men of the Arctic convoys will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very dangerous work they did."
He continued: "On Bomber Command, Sir John concluded that they had been treated inconsistently with those who served in Fighter Command and has therefore recommended, and I agree, that the heroic aircrews of Bomber Command should be awarded a Bomber Command clasp. I know that these announcements will be widely welcomed across the House."
And so they were, engendering that rarest of things: cross-party Commons cheers. Mr Colvile, brother of Sky cricket commentator Charles, pulled a similar trick last year. He wrote to Chancellor George Osborne to ask the Treasury to donate the VAT from the Military Wives choir's Christmas number one to chosen charities. The next day, the Chancellor agreed.
And the more eagle-eyed Westminster watchers will recall, in April last year, he asked at a Westminster Hall debate whether ministers would keep seven Type 23 frigates in Plymouth, rather than transfer the warships to Portsmouth as planned. Underlining the MP's apparent ability to make ministers bend at his will, the Ministry of Defence agreed there and then.
Maybe we should put him in charge of the economy. The Right Honourable Mr Goldfinger has a ring to it (though that in no way is implying Mr Colvile is a James Bond baddie).
Bond films, of course, are a staple of the Christmas television schedule. And the House was in distinctly festive mood, this being the final PMQs before recess. Judging by the jokes, though, let's hope Members invest in some decent crackers this year, despite the austerity. The gags were questionable.
"With the Prime Minister's neighbours in trouble over phone hacking and, as we have heard, his local hunt in disgrace, he might find himself stuck at home a bit over Christmas watching films on TV," began Kevin Brennan (Lab, Cardiff West) off such a long run up that he squeezed in multiple potshots.
"I have had a quick scan of the Radio Times. Which of these films would he fancy: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, starring the Chancellor of the Exchequer; The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring the Lib Dem members of the Cabinet; or It's Not a Wonderful Life for the Poor, starring himself?"
It shouldn't need me to tell you there were audible groans. You could probably have heard them in Belgium.
The Prime Minister fought pun with pun, alluding to Labour leader Ed Miliband's resemblance to the Aardman character that is also popular at this time of year.
"The Labour party will have to swap Wallace and Gromit and have The Muppet Christmas Carol instead," said Mr Cameron, placing the bit firmly between his teeth and eyeing his PMQs nemesis. "I have one suggestion – full of Christmas cheer. Everybody knows that the shadow Chancellor does a brilliant job playing Santa at the Christmas party every year. He does an excellent job. Why not give everyone an early Christmas present, make the arrangement permanent and give him the sack?"
Every Christmas pantomime has its villain. Yet the much-vaunted bad guy of the piece was not in moustache-twirling mood. In fact, the Commons was looking for a new Abanazar to don the tights of evil. Andrew Mitchell, the former Cabinet minister, had been mired in allegations he called a Downing Street police officer a "pleb". However, on Tuesday night, a Channel 4 News investigation cast doubt on the corroboration of the claims. A week ago, "Thrasher" Mitchell was a political pariah. Barely any of his colleagues would buy him a cup of tea. Yesterday, standing proudly at the Commons bar, it was back pats aplenty. MPs are a fickle a bunch.