In an alternate universe, the Speaker of the House of Commons would be less hapless au pair and more 1950s teacher. In the depths of my fevered imagination, that alternate universe’s Hansard transcript would go like this:
Speaker: None of you is leaving this room until you ADMIT WHAT YOU’VE DONE. We will sit here until those involved take responsibility for their actions.
[Some muted muttering and shuffling of feet but absolute stillness on the front benches.]
Speaker: Well?…I can and will lock those doors and keep all of you after class…you’d make everyone else suffer, rather than admit it? Right then. No dinner for you lot. I’m taking it all off the table. You think it’s hard to manage on £65,000 a year? See how you manage without expenses.
[Speaker pauses again and glares around, trying to catch the eyes of the front benches but some are staring at their feet, while others keep their heads held high and stare straight ahead of them.]
Speaker: Osborne. What do you have to say for yourself, you creepy little sod?
[Sullenly, Osborne’s gaze shifts and he meets Speaker’s eye.]
Osborne: ‘S not my fault Sir. Balls & his gang ballsed it all up. And I’m fixing..
Balls: Are not…
Osborne: Am too and it’s all your fault.
Speaker: GENTLEMEN. You’ll get your turn to speak Balls. Osborne, are you sure you don’t want to own up.
Osborne: No, sir.
Speaker: Anything more to say for yourself?
[An eager hand shoots up, its owner shuffling with excitement like someone about to lose control of his bladder.]
Speaker [sighs]: Yes Alexander.
Alexander: Osborne’s right sir. It’s not his fault. It’s
[pauses, struggling to recall the lessons he learned by rote]
a global problem. They got in bed
[pauses while his audience titters, then rushes on breathlessly, eager to impress]
with the bankers and…and…the Eurozone. That’s it. And Amewicca and the skivers and…
Speaker: Yes. Thank you, Alexander. You have correctly regurgitated all the excuses your friends have been using but we’re here to get to the bottom of things, not to go over the same ground again.
[Alexander is no longer listening. He’s nudging Osborne in the ribs and grinning with a desperate air, hoping for approval that isn’t forthcoming.]
Speaker: Now, Balls. What do you have to say for yourself?
Balls: Ed Balls.
Speaker: WHAT did you say?
Balls: I ain’t saying nuffink. You ain’t the boss of me.
Milliband: I think what Ed means to say is that mistakes were made under Labour. We have admitted that because we know this is the only way we’re taking back into office in 2015.
Speaker: Indeed…and Gromit. Uh. That is to say, Balls, do you freely admit this?
Balls: Well yeah, some departments. Some departments screwed things up. Immigration, what a mess. Not my department. My department didn’t do anything wrong.
Speaker: And the enormous deficit you left the country with?
Balls: But…everyone was doing it! Easy credit. Who wouldn’t jump at that?
Speaker: And what do you say to the accusation that you shouldn’t have bailed the banks out?
Balls: It’s Balls. The Tories voted with us on bank bailouts.
Speaker: I see. Clegg. What do you have to say for yourself?
Clegg: I’m sorry.
Speaker: Aha. Finally. What do you accept responsibility for young man?
Clegg: I didn’t say I accept responsibility. I just said I’m sorry. I hope that if I do it at random intervals I won’t lose my job in 2015.
Speaker [sighs]: Cameron, what do you say to the allegation that you are wilfully using the European Union to distract the British people from your toxic and chaotic policies?
Cameron: S not my fault. It’s this monkey on my shoulder.
Speaker: Oh for heavens sake Farage. Get off his shoulder. How many times do you have to be told. You are not a member of parliament and nor are any of your party.
Farage: Sooon. Sooooon my pretties. Dance. Dance to the tune I play for you. Mwahahahaha
[Farage scampers out to be interviewed on every current affairs show the BBC has]
Speaker: Now. Gove?
Gove: I’ve got nothing to say. You can’t make me talk. Not you, not the Information Commissioner, not nobody. You hear me?
Speaker: Not even in Latin?
Gove: Ah, well. You see. My goal is to put the poor in puer and puerella. Why, in September 2015 I will…
Twigg: Sir. He’s getting the math wrong again. Look. The question is…
Speaker: Uh. I don’t believe I’ve seen you before, boy. Remind me of your name again?
Twigg: Twigg sir. Look, if the Tories are polling abysmally and a general election must be called by May 2015, who will be in power by September 2015?
Speaker: Ah. Yes. I see. Sorry Gove but you fail. Hunt. You stand accused of breaking up the NHS. Surely you must take some responsibility.
Hunt: You all need to take some homeopathic soothers. Just relax. I know what I’m doing.
Burnham: Yeah. Privatising the NHS, you cock.
Hunt: Am not.
Burnham: Are too and IDS wants to ruin the NHS and then send people back to work without medical help.
Speaker [sotto voce]: I wonder whether there’s any openings in academy schools. It’s got to be easier than this.
IDS: Only skivers! Those who work hard and are higher rate tax payers will have full access to the NHS.
McVey: Yes and we know for a fact that most “disabled” are faking and don’t really even need medical help. It stands to reason that it’s in their best interests to cut NHS services.
Back benches chant: Es-ter Es-ter Es-ter
McVey: Our proposals are fair and equitable.
Cooper: Oh, yeah? Then why are people dying?
Alexander: He he he.
McVey: Just rumours and gossip. We have common sense on our side and common sense says there’s no such thing as disability and if there was disabled people not in work would be better off dead.
[Cooper rises and slaps McVey. McVey pulls Cooper’s hair]
Back benches chant: Cat fight, cat fight, cat fight
Speaker: Ladies! That’s quite enough of that. Now what about the bedroom tax? It’s said hundreds of thousands of people, mostly disabled, will be hurt by this.
Cameron [whines]: It’s not a tax. It’s a spare room subsidy.
Byrne: Mate. If you’re a product of the public school system, it’s no wonder we’re all fucked. The very definition of a subsidy is that it involves giving something, not taking it away.
Cameron: That’s not true! It’s just a lie concocted by the Marxists at the BBC. They changed every dictionary in the country, just to make me look bad!
Speaker [rolls eyes]: Pickles. Surely you must have something to say on the bedroom tax. After all, you’re involved in building new appropriate housing.
[Pickles continues to masticate, a look of contemplation on his face. Finished he turns to the speaker with a bovine expression, lifts a sheep’s thigh bone and picks his teeth]
Shapps: I’ll take this one, if I may. You see, in my rather lovely home in a nice, expensive part of my constituency, my sons share a bedroom. They make do.
Byrne: Aye, Shapps? Give it a rest. You’re so greedy you even had two names!
Pickles [slowly realising he’s been asked a question]: Nowt to do with me mate. Ask that thar Freud.
Freud: It’s perfectly simple. The poor are obsessed with sex. Their mummy fixation stems from years of rule by an overbearing woman, Margaret Thatcher. The bedroom tax will ensure that people have less sex and less children, leaving them with free time to spend starving in ditches. Perfectly reasonable. It fulfills the brief set by cabinet.
Speaker: It reduces the deficit?
Freud: Not really.
Speaker: It leads to a fairer allocation of housing stock?
Freud: Steady on, old boy. No. It ensures that the British poor don’t get more sex than the cabinet.
Speaker : Ah. Well, yes. Mission accomplished.
Cameron [waves]: Cooie Mr Speaker. Must dash. I’ve got ribbon tyings to attend.
Speaker: What in the name of God is a ribbon tying?
Cameron: Photo ops are getting thin on the ground but I need them to feed my insane belief that the commoners love me so Gideon came up with a cracking wheeze. I’ll do a ceremonial ribbon tying when things close. I’m doing a national high street tour and by the time I get back Jezza should have this NHS nonsense sorted out. The cabinet’s been so supportive. Chris is even giving me eight prisons to ribbon tie.
Grayling: Well. I watched the Bill and Rumpole and Morse and…
Speaker: We get the picture, Grayling. No, Cameron. No special treatment. You can stay after class like everyone else.
Grayling: Tv’s great. How else would we learn everything we need for our jobs. Jez watches Holby City and all those emergency rescue thingies. I find the traffic police shows rather fascinating and Theresa is hooked on that Aussie border control show. Well, there’s not much difference between snakes and refugees in the end is there?
Speaker [head in hands]: So how did prison closures come about?
Grayling: Porridge. It seems to me those chaps had far too much fun. Four to a cell will change the dynamic and wipe the smiles from their faces. Besides, prisoners are mostly poor. Why house, clothe and feed them when they could be suffering on the outside?
Speaker: And the vacated prisons, what will happen to them?
Grayling: Ah. I’ll hand that one off to my good pal, Iain.
Speaker: Well, STD?
IDS: Five will immediately become workhouses. The feckless poor can’t be relied on to work so we’re bringing back the poorhouse. They can die in a gutter or come in and work.
Speaker: What about the rest?
IDS: Theresa’s requisitioned them to round up all the forriners.
May: Yes. People come over here. They steal our jobs and our benefits. Why, I even heard that cats are in on the scam. I kid you not. I’m not making it up. They fall asleep in lorry engines and come through the tunnel. Once they’re here they breed and fight and kill hardworking British mice and then. AND THEN they have the gall to claim this is their home. It’s a disgrace.
Speaker: Cats? You’re blaming migrant cats? What do they have to do with empty prisons?
Cooper: She’s going to convert one into a factory to produce kitten heel shoes!
May: Don’t listen to her. It’s not like I’m locking 101 Dalmatians up.
Speaker: Calm, that is to say settle, down. I think we’ve heard quite enough of all of that. Back to you Grayling. How will the privatisation of the probation service reduce reoffending?
Grayling: Whatever made you think it’s meant to? Our pals in G4S will be getting a lot of new contracts from us. Taking over probation makes recruitment far more cost effective for them
[The speaker stops, shuffling papers, and then turns to May.]
Speaker: So, tell me. What do you say to the claim that women are being far harder hurt by the government’s cuts and by the recession?
May: Well. I have a story about that which I think will answer your question for me.
[To one side of her Cameron reaches over, trying to get a hand over her mouth]
Cameron: No more of your stories thank you very much.
Speaker [sighs heavily, once more]: Then perhaps someone can explain Workfare to me.
Byrne: Doesn’t bloody work. That’s for sure.
Hoban: Yeah? Yeah? Then why did your party abstain from the vote on the retroactive Workfare Bill?
[Hughes, sitting on a fence which has mysteriously appeared next to the Speaker, grins and swishes his tail at the sight of someone other than the LibDems being caught in a trap of their own hypocrisy]
Byrne: Well. I. Um.
Byrne: That’s not the point!
[Milliband slumps in his seat]
Balls [shouts]: Mansion tax! Yeah. You heard me. Two can play the lying back-peddler game. Mansion tax!
Speaker: He does have a point. Clegg?
Clegg: I…. Look. We got an increase in the personal allowance….
Speaker: But didn’t you also agree to an increase in VAT and below inflation increases in the minimum wage and benefits, including working families tax credits?
Speaker: Have you in fact made any headway at all in convincing your Coalition partners of the appropriateness of a mansion tax?
[Series of snorts and snickers around the House]
Speaker: Tell me, Osborne. What is your ground for objecting to a tax based on the value of people’s houses?
Osborne: It’s a slippery slope.
Balls [jeers]: It’s your mate, Dave’s forehead?
Osborne: If we agree to this it’s only a matter of time before the threshold is reduced and before you know it, even poor Shappsie could be paying it.
Speaker [rubs eyes]: But couldn’t that be said of all taxes?
Osborne: Because we can’t implement a system for valuing property.
Speaker: Are you suggesting we don’t do that already with the Council Tax? Properties are already banded and with only 70,000 properties valued at over £2 million, surely it would be possible to…
Speaker: Not even…
Alexander [dreamily]: You see? Everything makes so much sense when George explains it.
Speaker: Alexander, if you don’t stop with that kind of comment I’ll be forced to search your locker for hallucinogenic substances. Back to the budget, Cable. Do you have any answers for me?
Cable: The simple fact of the matter is that we find ourselves in a state of pecuniary embarrassment due to the abject failure of our predecessors in government to control public expenditure. Difficult decisions must be made. It is a natural consequence of the inadequacy of the fiscal policies…
Speaker [jerks awake]: Huh?
Cable [with constipated expression]: There is no magic money tree
Speaker: That’s rather clever, Cameron. I didn’t even see your lips move but ultimately we come back to the same problem over and over again. None of you will explain your decisions in clear terms or accept responsibility for them. You leave me with no alternative but to expel you all. A General Election will be called forthwith. I certainly hope you learn your lesson and speak plainly and honestly and keep your promises in future.
[Chorus of guffaws rings round the Chamber]