Lloyd Evans

PMQs sketch: We’re all dying, according to MPs

PMQs sketch: We're all dying, according to MPs
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Cameron has a dream. And Jeremy Corbyn wants to destroy it. Our belligerent prime minister has declared war on those inner-city council estates that foster poverty, despair, unemployment, truancy, social exclusion, (and an aversion to Tory candidates). His hope is to replace these crime-ridden concrete citadels with frondy low-rise dream-homes. It sounds like Syria organised by Foxtons. But consider the result as it takes shape in the prime minister’s mind. Acre upon acre of urban dereliction transformed into mini Chipping Nortons. A sofa from Habitat in every sitting room. A sea bass in every fridge. A sundial in every garden. A low-carbon Toyota Land Cruiser on every driveway. And a future Tory voter happily belting himself into the bio-degradable carseat. Soon every citizen, in every no-go area in Britain, will say ‘napkin’ instead of ‘serviette.’ A lovely idea. But where’s the money? Jeremy Corbyn predicted that the PM’s plan would be castrated by its budgetary shortfall. ‘My maths is perfect,’ he said, jokingly, as he pointed out that Operation Underclass has only £1.4m to give each dynamite team to flatten 100 estates.

‘It won’t even pay for the bulldozers.’

He asked if the displaced residents, after emerging from the squatter camps erected during the building works, would be guaranteed a home in their new yuppie nirvana? Cameron refused to give that pledge. ‘The policy isn’t as carefully thought through as [your] reshuffle,’ he admitted. And he said that Labour’s message to the poor is ‘stay stuck in your sink estate.’ Thrifty Tories, he boasted, examine root-causes of problems while tax-guzzling socialists spew cash in all directions.

But if Labour members throw money at difficulties the Tories throw biros at them. And bureaucrats. And paper work.

Kent MP Gordon Henderson announced that his booming constituency has become a victim of its own success. A busy trunk-road full of juggernauts is pumping clouds of exhaust fumes down his voters’ throats. His answer to this difficulty? A review by the ministry of transport. Alan Duncan, the knighted oil wizard, offered the same paper-clip solution. The former petrol-head has spoken to high-level contacts within the oil industry who have secretly informed him that prices are falling. Crude may sink below $30 a barrel. His response? A review across Whitehall. Well, of course. Lots of squiggles on lots of bits of Crown foolscap. That’s bound to solve the world oil glut.

Dr Tania Matthias tried her hand at the popular parliamentary sport of killing off one’s constituents. Or at least announcing their imminent deaths. The Twickenham MP revealed in ominous tones that on 8 January the levels of nitrous dioxide in the air had already exceeded the yearly quota. Blame Heathrow airport. There was a touch of Ian Paisley about her as she thundered out this challenge to the PM: ‘pledge never to expand Heathrow while nitrous dioxide is endangering the health of millions.’

Dan Jarvis took up the grim reaper’s mantle and announced that 43,000 pensioners froze to death last year. ‘Avoidable and appalling’, he called this frosty massacre. Cameron agreed and described the figures as ‘a standing rebuke’ to the government.

A standing rebuke to whoever compiled them, I’d say. Hypothermia fatalities can’t be this high. The figure probably identifies the number of pensioners who expired while facing a red fuel bill. But it’s good to know that our rulers think we’re all dead or dying. By 2020 the only people left to vote for MPs will be MPs.