New Forest East



By Quentin Letts

Daily Mail  15 May 2013

Three memorable Commons performances contrasted with one stinker. The good ones came from David Blunkett (Lab, Sheffield Brightside), Sir Menzies Campbell (Lib Dem, NE Fife) and Julian Lewis (Con, New Forest E).  The less elevated effort emanated from Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Bawls, he should be called.

The first three spoke in the Queen’s Speech Debate which – despite my duff assertion here yesterday – will finish today.

Normally a Queen’s Speech debate includes a day on foreign affairs and defence but the Opposition, which guides such things, did not seem keen on those matters being discussed. Instead we had a day’s debate on the ‘cost of living’. Speaker Bercow, perhaps recognising this topic as a shallow political stunt, allowed MPs to make diversions on to foreign policy nonetheless.

Mr Lewis, mocking the day’s chosen focus, said that he trusted his speech would be in order if he began by saying the words ‘cost of living’ and then moved to the more serious matter of war in Syria. The Chair did not demur.

Mr Lewis, limited to a few minutes, spoke with urgency about the realpolitik of the Syria question. Was it wise to seek to replace one ‘shocking regime’ with something which might be just as bad, but which we had armed?

He cited that old Lenin expression about the capitalists being hanged by the rope they had sold the mob. Might a successor to Syria’s current ruler, Mr Assad, not lean towards Al Qaeda? Do we want Al Qaeda placing its murderous hands on Assad’s chemical weapons? Gulp.

Mr Lewis put these points with elasticated vowels and deep reading. He does not shout. What he does is raise troubling possibilities with the air of a driving instructor gently suggesting to the novice that crossing a mini-roundabout at 70mph might be unwise. His is not the most honeyed of voices – you would not want it reading you a bedtime story – but Mr Lewis has become a distinct presence on the green benches. ...

[For Julian's speech in this Debate, click here.]