More ping than pong

March 18, 2005 ,

THE last seven days in Parliament have been just about as dramatic as they come.

First we had the all night parliamentary “ping pong” between the Lords and Commons over the Terrorism Bill.

By lunchtime on Friday there was rather more pong than ping, as MPs huddled together in the chamber in the same clothes they wore on Thursday.

At one stage a full blown constitutional crisis seemed possible, as the Lords threatened to overstep their powers and veto the new terrorism law.

When Welshman Lloyd George found a similar attitude over his 1909 budget he was vitriolic about the Lords.
He described them as “a body of 500 men chosen at random from the ranks of the unemployed”.
On that occasion the crisis led to a snap General Election.
This time the Lords saw sense and the Government got its bill with some good amendments.

Until last year Lloyd George held the record as the longest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer.
That record is now held by Gordon Brown who delivered his ninth budget this week.
It was, as ever, an impressive performance by the Chancellor.
He reminded the House of the strength of the economy under his stewardship, and lampooned those who had doubted his economic growth forecasts and been proven wrong.

Some commentators, noticing his new haircut wondered if he was being groomed for the top job in future.

He certainly pleased Labour MPs with his help for pensioners on council tax, and a cut in stamp duty for home buyers.

If he does one day become Prime Minister perhaps the most difficult job in his cabinet will be Chancellor of the Exchequer.
His record on mortgage rates, inflation and unemployment will be a hard one to match.