Thursday, June 17, 2010

George Young's World

When summing up how his star-crossed lovers might feel once they had been re-united in the course of a long and complex plot, the genius comic writer P.G.Wodehouse would often use a phrase such as this - "He felt that all was absolutely for the best in this best of all possible worlds". On a beautiful summer evening yesterday, as birds twittered, along with most of the media chatterati, and tourists milled, Leader of the Commons Sir George Young sported a Wodehousian tone in his speech at Westminster to the Hansard Society.

Sir George, the 'bicycling baronet', is a bit of a Wodehousian character himself, in a world where Etonians are once again 'in' after a long absence. A charming, thoroughly decent, not exactly exciting gentleman, he is charged with bringing the Cameron/Clegg government's parliamentary reform programme into being, and to be fair, he had much positive news to report to us. Backbenchers have got their own committee, the Coalition Committe is a dream, parliament is being reinforced to better scrutinise the executive. All well and good. But what really got Sir George going as close to a rhapsody as he would allow himself, was the sheer beauty and wonderfulness of the coalition. He couldn't quite believe it himself. The Liberal Democrats and their Conservative colleagues were working superbly well together. Liam Fox and his Lib Dem deputy Nick Harvey were as one on the key issues of defence. As were Sir George and his own deputy David Heath. In fact, suggested the new Leader, he and his deputy had really always voted the same way (although Sir George may have allowed enthusiasm to get the better of him here; my usually well informed colleague noted that they had actually voted separately on the issue of shorter summer recesses, which Sir G. is now a convert to).

His keen-ness on this new parliamentary arrangement also allowed him one of his better lines - "David Cameron and Nick Clegg share the same philosophy but are in different parties, whereas Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were in the same party but had different parties". Actually, of course, it's more about the fact that Cameron and Clegg share a similarly pragmatic outlook and have better personal chemistry, but there we go. Sir George also noted that it was time to give parliamentary debates more punch, although coming from a man whose own delivery had the measured tone of a sun-sated bumblebee this might be portending an excitement that is difficult to realise. Nevertheless, the era of car seat punching and mobile phone throwing is over, and the bicycling baronet is merely the latest figure to report on the new mood of joy and harmony that is currently permeating parliament. Now if only someone could usefully remind the Tory Right that that is the era we are now in, Cameron and Clegg really might be able to survive the full five years.

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