The Ghost of Christmas Past slipped quietly into a place amongst the late-comers at the back of the Chamber and as Dickens said:
[pull_quote_center]Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength.[/pull_quote_center]and thus, with apologies to ‘A Christmas Carol’, Thrasher Mitchell made his return to the House of Commons.
It was probably fitting that the ousted Chief Whip should appear on the Commons camera for the first time since his exit from the Cabinet at Prime Ministers Questions, scene of his last humiliating public appearance following plebgate.
Then he squirmed his way into apparent oblivion as foe and foe alike lined up to give him the sort kicking he had threatened to hand out to others during his short time as the Government’s official bully.
But, with an official inquiry now launched into the number of times he actually told members of HM constabulary to f*** off, following the discovery by Channel 4 News of information which has apparently been available all along, there is suddenly a chance he could return.
Indeed “friends”- of whom he equally suddenly has many – have let it be known he wants a job back in the Cabinet, which could explain the worried look on many of the faces on the Front Bench as he cast a baleful eye down their ranks.
Although he was no doubt making a point by standing up throughout proceedings he could easily have taken his place on the benches for the last PMQs before Christmas.
Usually, they have them heaving in the aisles for the weekly throat-clearing but with the festive season here some MPs had clearly fled the chamber if not the country in advance of the hordes of their constituents who might have formed a queue ahead of them. When you are due back at work on January 7 you obviously need an early start.
However, for those who did make the journey here was the comforting sight of the main protagonists in play before the mince pies and mulled wine.
Dave has not had his best year as PM and it was noted that the man most responsible for his lack of fortune, Chancellor George, was himself absent from proceedings – although he is alleged to be in the USA on business.
With George out of town, the PM found himself surrounded instead by Cabinet Office Minister Frances Maude, still not recovered from telling the nation to keep petrol in their garage “jerry cans”, and Deputy Nick, taking a day off from rubbishing the Coalition. Nick, who had show some signs of life recently, was clearly back on the indifference pills and looked as if his mind had already started on the Christmas vacation.
With Thrasher on everybody’s mind and therefore not to be talked about, the crowd were keen to see how Dave’s tormentor Ed Miliband would send him off into the new year. The Labour leader took time out for a little bit of diplomacy over Afghanistan in advance of the PM’s announcement on troop movements but did not delay the insults for too long.
A crack at Dave over food banks, the ritual mentioning of tax cuts for millionaires and a mention of a party-time chat last weekend with former News International boss Rebekah Brooks was enough to get the faithful jeering.
As the PM’s complexion adopted the colour of someone who had started early on the mulled wine, his personal nightmare, Ed Balls turned up the temperature by calling for calm and waving his hands up and down as if fanning a fire.
The Prime Minister’s therapists have obviously done sterling work in recent weeks, teaching him new breathing methods and putting him in closer contact with his chakra and his ability to recover from an imminent heart attack is much faster than ever.
Indeed he recovered quickly enough to remember the off-the-cuff Christmas crack he had been practising all morning.
To meet the Miliband onslaught, “It would not be Christmas without the repeats,” he said to the delight of his own side who often fear for his safety – and theirs – in these contests.
Meanwhile, further down the Front Bench sat the somnolent form of Ken Clarke, wearer of suede shoes in front of the Queen, Minister without Portfolio, and someone who always looked as if Christmas,or at least the lunch part, had come early.