Silence among MPs as PM pays tribute to McGuinness

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

The Prime Minister paid tribute in the Commons the other day to the late Martin McGuinness, former IRA commander and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Unsurprisingly, her words were heard in a resounding silence.

But what astonished me was that May failed at that point to congratulate Dame Vera Lynn on becoming a centenarian.

During the war, Dame Vera did a magnificent and tireless job in keeping up national morale, both among our forces and those on the home front.

She certainly deserved parliamentary recognition on this milestone. Fortunately, one questioner raised the subject with the Prime Minister, who then paid warm tribute.

A pity, though, that it did not come earlier and spontaneously from her.

• Internet firms that give terrorists ‘a place to hide’, and make it impossible for security services to access crucial messages, are to face a punishing crackdown.

And not before time.

It is beyond a scandal they’ve been able to get away with it so far. As one newspaper has pertinently put it: ‘Whose side are they supposed to be on?’

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, has announced she plans to act. I should hope so too. Such conduct on the part of some internet firms strikes me as a grave crime, which some say borders on treason.

It’s unbelievable this has been going on, while lives continue to be lost at the hands of terrorists.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the attack on Parliament last week, there have been absurd calls for such acts not to be ‘dignified’ with the description of terrorism and should be classed as ‘ordinary’ crimes.

I have never heard such nonsense, including a plea that the media report these events ‘proportionately’.

It’s claimed such ‘downsizing’ would reduce the amount of publicity these acts attract, since that’s what the terrorists like.

What is more important is not concealing from the general public what’s actually going on, as to do so would begin a perilous course, leading to the slippery slope of routine lies constantly dished out by the likes of Soviet regimes.

That must not be allowed to happen here.

• EU Remainers have been on the march again, snarling up traffic, and public transport, in the capital. The trouble with the Remainers is that they are dead but won’t lie down.

They will not accept they were beaten in the referendum and should have the grace to accept that.

A whole new look should be taken at these protest marches.

The right to march should be judged against the right of ordinary folk to go about their lawful business, but who are frustrated by traffic chaos and other restrictions. Surely that is more important than disruptive marches?

The Mayor of London should consider this. If people must march, why can’t they just parade around Hyde Park, thus minimising the disruption to the lives of everyone else, whose rights are no less important?

• The voters of Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, must be wondering whether their Popeye-lookalike MP Douglas Carswell will ever make up his mind.

Carswell defected from the Tories to UKIP, resigned from Parliament and successfully fought a by-election under his new banner. Now, he has quit UKIP (“amicably” he has said, but not a view shared by his ex-UKIP colleagues) to become an independent.

The serial defector claims now Brexit’s been achieved, there’s no reason for the party to exist any more, and that because he has not joined another political party (if, indeed, any of them would have him), it’s not necessary for him to resign and fight a by-election.

Well, he is wrong. Clacton voted for a UKIP MP not an independent, and the voters there, who must be fed up with constantly traipsing to the polling stations, should nevertheless be given the opportunity to say if they want to retain this flibbertigibbet MP or dump him.

His departure has led to a tsunami of turbulence in the party. The message to Carswell from their grandees is ‘Good riddance’, and, ‘You jumped before you were pushed’. This has been followed by a spate of infantile internal squabbling, rancour and jealousies.

What a way to run a so-called political party!

I admit, I couldn’t run a whelk stall, but on the evidence, they would be even worse at it than me.

• Commons Speaker John Bercow is in danger of ruining question time in the Chamber, and particularly Prime Minister’s question time.

In his innocence he seems to object to the noise and racket during these sessions and appears to think they should be conducted, instead, like a Quakers’ prayer meeting - in silence.

What utter tosh.

He is continually interrupting the flow of natural debate by saying that ‘the public’ do not like this noise, and will MPs please shut up.

Well I, as a member of that public, can tell him he is wrong and misguided, that we do expect our politicians, who are naturally argumentative characters, to respond robustly and noisily to what they hear their opponents say. It is human nature.

We want passion in Parliament, not the reverse.

Yet, Bercow doesn’t seem to take this on board. I am astonished that MPs tolerate his regular and irritating interventions. Just as well for Bercow that the demands for his removal from office seem to have blown away.

But he insists on behaving like a fussy and hugely annoying schoolmarm.

• Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, who served as a single-Parliament Tory MP for Chester, has said something only an ex-Member dare say, yet which is almost certainly true of hundreds of sitting Members.

Namely, that the one thing he hated about being an MP were his constituents and that the only good view of his constituency was through the rear-view mirror of his car. Scores of sitting MPs share this view, finding their constituents a pain in the neck and in some cases, very privately of course, describing them as ‘pond life’.

Yet to hear MPs talking openly about them, you would think they are all virtually sanctified, hard-working, honest, public-spirited individuals who can do no wrong.

Which all reminds me of the question: How do you tell when a politician is lying? Answer: When you see his lips moving.