It was when Sir Bufton Tufton rose and asked about Angela Merkel and her bazookas that you wondered if the future of the country really was in safe hands.
Some may point out that Sir B is a fictional character but that only makes it even harder to explain away Sir Peter Hannay Bailey Tapsell, Conservative MP for Louth and Horncastle.
Sir Peter, who doubles as Father of the House of Commons, is not apparently fictional but makes a good stab at it at every opportunity he gets.
And one such opportunity came earlier today when he found himself at Prime Ministers Questions with a bit of spare time on his hands.
PMQs returned to the parliamentary timetable today after an absence of almost a month to give MPs a bit of a break after they had a bit of a break for Easter six weeks ago and before they go off for a bit of a break for Whitsun in eight day’s time.
Since they last got together the government has re-launched itself at least two more times, growth forecasts have again been down-graded, Tories and Lib Dems massacred in local elections and some of the Prime Minister’s best mates sent up in front of the Leveson Inquiry.
With Dave himself due in the same dock soon, Labour with a double-digit lead in the polls and even Ed Miliband less nerdy than ever, the stage was set for a scintillating – if one-side – return to the fray.
Indeed the PM displayed a sickly pallor, if such a thing is possible beneath the expensive tan of someone who travels abroad as often as possible, as he arrived for the contest. His nervous demeanour was only matched by that of his Chancellor George Osborne, who clearly expected a kicking himself; but neither could match the appearance of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who looked as if tears were but one further slight snub away.
Time off usually imbues PMQs with that back-to-school excitement so beloved of many MPs but a few days of debates on the Queen’s Speech seemed to have taken their toll and even the usual suspects took time to open their insults bags.
Having been roundly drubbed by Ed M at all appearances at the Despatch Box in recent months, Dave has been told by his advisors that he must get a grip on his temper and his tantrums.
And arriving with welcome news on the unemployment front he seemed in control as he batted away the Labour leader’s early insults which themselves appeared to have been on holiday. But breeding will out and after a few fumbles Ed managed to re-locate the button which turns Dave into his alter-ego Harry Flashman and normal service was resumed.
Having dropped in references to Leveson and last week’s exposure of his LOL texting tendencies by Rebekah Brooks (which Dave was at least prepared for), Ed turned the screw.
Energetically aided and abetted by his own in-house bruiser Ed Balls, he moved on to the economy, dropped in the nurses, asked what the Prime Minister was on, and told him to calm down.
To be fair, Dave tried his best but you could see he will need a few more hours on the couch. Snacking on the PM has been a regular hors d’oeuvreson the Commons lunch menu for Labour in recent months. But it’s also been a hidden pleasure for his Cabinet Ministers as well; happy to see him getting a slice of what he serves up to them regularly.
But most of the infamous faces were notable by their absence today – although reports were coming in of Home Secretary Theresa May taking serious abuse from the Police Federation, and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had only managed to make his way to the end of the Front Bench.
With a re-shuffle now apparently imminent could it be that out-of-sight, out-of-mind may be the approach being taken by those on whose feet, if not careers, the Prime Minister has to trod as he makes his usually baleful exit from the Chamber.
All of which brings us untidily back to Sir Bufton. Or at least his presence on earth, Sir Peter, and his question about the German Chancellor and her bazookas.
Sir Peter, who has not been bothered by the the demands of high political office in his fifty-plus years as an MP, often makes interventions which soar above the heads of most of those present, and his latest was no exception.
The Prime Minister, noting the appearance of Angela Merkel amongst the words, chose to answer a question about Greece . . .
Published in The New Statesman