UK Politics

Milligan's week: White stuff and nonsense

I had been setting up interviews at the beginning of this week and then had to undo them all.

I couldn't get there, and the interviewees could get out of their homes. I think they were quite relieved to be off the hook, blaming, not their lack of grit, but the lack of grit. (They didn't actually. I made that bit up).

The white stuff causes such disruption that in the Commons there was a UQ, an Urgent Question about the snow, (why are there so many UQ's nowadays?)

MPs queued up to slap the Transport Minister Philip Hammond about the face.

Especially Labour old timer, Clive Efford.

He spat out the words with two arms held stiffly in front of him, like a fork lift truck, or like he might leap over the benches to grab the minister by the throat and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until he could tell commuters still waiting on the train platform in his constituency when the train would be turning up, and why it hadn't turned up yet, and is it never going to turn up.

Philip Hammond kept saying it was inexcusable and talked a great deal about the strategy; the strategy of the strategic road networks and the strategic reserve of grit and salt.

Lib Dem 'pickle'

The point is that this was a repeat of last year. Although I can't remember if there was a UQ, I am sure there was, must have been.

Conservative MP, Charlie Elphicke, rang in and told me he wanted to get the message across that people could clear the snow on the pavements outside their homes if they wished to.

Image caption Snow go area: Roads have been blocked - but there is a strategy...

"You see," he went on, "last year, if you can credit it, my constituents were warned that if they did clear it they could be prosecuted for being a nuisance."

I lost the end of the sentence he was laughing so much. Let's meet for coffee he said, but only when the weather clears up.

Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent, said he hoped I wasn't calling about the snow because it is, he bellowed: "BORING!".

"But aren't you in those big boots everyone else is wearing?" I asked in all innocence.

"NO, it's BORING Becky. I am dressed as I always am," he replied, adding: "I have no analysis at all on the weather situation."

On another note the Liberal Democrats are in a right old pickle aren't they?

I spoke to several MPs about what they were going to do about the tuition fees conundrum.

No answers

At the beginning of the week they answered my calls. One senior Lib Dem said this was a "totemic" moment.

"It could bring down the coalition."

"No?"

"Yes."

"Really?"

"Yes really."

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know. The idea is that we all abstain."

Others were far more circumspect. A couple of the MPs said they were minded to vote against, and had told some of their constituents as much. But they certainly could not say that on the record.

"And why not?"

"I want to leave you media types in suspense."

Oh right. I get you.

But by the end of the week messages were left unanswered.

I waited, mesmerised by the large snow flakes swirling in the sky.

There was an unusual quietness and still no answers.

Not by Thursday at any rate.

I can forgive them. The inclement weather must be to blame; they were probably all snowed under.

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