For a few short minutes each week Prime Minister’s Questions keeps reminding the most powerful politician in the land that they are mortal after all. That said, after weeks of trying my name came up on a day when the Prime Minister was pretending to be immortal in Brussels. This meant his place was taken by his deputy, Harriet Harman. In an exchange with William Hague she had claimed that the billions invested in the banking rescue would trickle down to the real economy as banks would start to lend again. The trouble is that we don’t know it will. We must just hope that it does. I pressed Ms Harman by pointing out the portents are not good when a wholly Government owned bank, Northern Rock, has passed on just 1/10th of last weeks interest rate cut to it’s mortgage holders. I am sure that banks will start to try to lend again but will it be at a rate that small businesses can afford? Rather than go bust many companies will pay much higher lending rates but this adds to the structural weakness in our economy.
Harriet Harman lacks a certain lightness of touch at the dispatch box. Gordon Brown is getting better at PMQs but still seems stuck in heavy plough at times. Neither of them are a patch on Tony Blair in his prime. He deftly avoided traps, moved onto ground of his own choosing and could call on any emotion a RADA student needs to learn. Anger, pity, scorn, self deprecation, humour, the lot. With Brown you can sense the venal malevolence he feels towards David Cameron. You almost sense his asking, how dare this person better me? Doesn’t he know who I am? Wednesday of this week was and easy points victory for Hague. In a footballing analogy, it was not unlike England vs Belarus.
On Friday night I hosted a gathering of around 190 Zimbabweans at Newbury Rugby Club. West Berkshire has become the favoured destination of hundreds of people who have escaped the hideous tyranny of Robert Mugabe’s regime. It was an opportunity for me to thank them for their great contribution to life in this community and to announce the formation of a network for them to support each other as they try to come to terms with a new life here, be it temporary or permanent. It was terrible to hear the stories of the misery being experienced by friends and relatives still in Zimbabwe. There has to be an end to this horror soon.