Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Goodnight, Mr Bean

It's not often you get to see a government disintegrate before your very eyes, but it's happening now all right. To seek some parallels and also for a wee bit of light relief, I went trawling through the Hansard archives to find the debate which took place on 9th June 1993.

That was the day Norman Lamont resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer, accusing John Major's Conservative government of being 'in office, but not in power'. Later in the day, Labour leader John Smith opened an Opposition Day debate which excoriated the Major government. Listing the government's failures, Smith opined that 'if we were to offer that tale of events to the BBC light entertainment department as a script for a programme, I think that the producers of "Yes, Minister" would have turned it down as hopelessly over the top. It might have even been too much for "Some Mothers Do 'Ave Them".

John Major as the Frank Spencer of British Politics? Cruel, maybe, but it stuck, and more importantly, set the tone for the remainder of his bedraggled, wretched, unlamented premiership. The question is, did Gordon Brown have his 'Frank Spencer' moment today at Prime Minister's Questions?

David Cameron's demolition was workmanlike and withering. "Aren't people rightly asking now, is this man simply not cut out for the job?", he asked. But while that might have been what everyone was thinking, it took the unlikely figure of Lib Dem stand-in Vince Cable to crystalise the image of Brown's bumbling inadequacy, when he noted "the Prime Minister's remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean, creating chaos out of order rather than order out of chaos."

It's one thing to be criticised and heckled by your opponents - indeed, it's par for the course. When they all start laughing at you like that, though, you really are finished.

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