The pain of giving Season’s Greetings in the House of Commons

You might think that passing on season’s greetings at Christmas time in the House of Commons would be a fairly enjoyable and risk-free thing to do. But David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn got themselves into  twist as they came head to head in the last PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) before the Christmas break.

Corbyn (LO), when he first stood up to speak, passed on his greetings to the Speaker, members of the house (and Major Tim Peake, the British astronaut who recently went into space on the International Space Station).

LO: thank you (.) thank you mister speaker (1.0)
    could I start by wishing you
    all members of the house
    and all staff here
    and major Tim Peake
    who’s not (.) on the planet at this time
Chamber: ((laughter & general noise))
                  ((5.0 secs))
LO: a very (.) a very happy Christmas
    and a peaceful new year

It is interesting to note how the Guardian has transcribed this section – there are significant differences with what was actually said:

May I start by wishing you, members of the house, staff and Major Tim Peake who is not on the planet at this time, a very happy Christmas and peaceful new year. (Guardian translation)

Cameron (PM) however didn’t seem to be happy with the greeting. Maybe he didn’t feel it was sincere or direct enough?

PM: well (.) well first of all
    let me join the right honourable gentleman
    and be very clear
    that I don’t want to (.)
    wish him the season’s greetings
    and I want a full happy Christmas for the er (.)
Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))
PM: er right honourable gentleman and everyone (.)
    er in in the house

Corbyn (LO), perhaps imagining tomorrow’s newspaper headlines, felt the need to clarify the fact that he did use the words ‘happy Christmas’:

LO: mister speaker just for the record
    I did say happy Christmas


Cameron (PM) made sure that the news of the fall in unemployment got a full sounding during PMQs; something he does most months when the figures are released. He clearly felt that Corbyn should have addressed this in his questioning and mentioned the fact seven times during the opening exchanges.

PM: on unemployment
    I’m sure the whole house will want to welcome
    the fact that there are
    <HALF a million> (.) more people in work
    in our country
    in the <last year alone>
Chamber:((shouts of agreement))

PM: we’ve had (.) wages
    wages growing above inflation
    every month for a year
    and (.) the claimant count
    is at the lowest level since nineteen seventy five
    I’m sure this will have a welcome
    right across the house
Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))
PM: none of this would be possible
    without the growing economy
    that we have
    and the more jobs we’ve created
Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))

PM: it’s this government
    that has the strong and growing economy
    and I note (.) question four
    and still not a welcome
    for the unemployment figures
Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))

PM: but I challenge him again
    how do we pay for the NHS
    we pay for it
    by more growth
    more jobs
    more people having  a livelihood
Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))

PM: is he going to welcome that at Christmas time
    or doesn’t he care
    about the reduction in unemployment

PM: but all of this is happening mister speaker
    because the economy is growing
    because the deficit if falling
    unemployment is coming down
    you can fill up a tank of gas
    at less than a pound (.) a litre
    wages are going up
    Britain is getting stronger
    as we go into Christmas
    because our economy’s getting stronger too
Chamber: ((shouts of agreement))


PMQs, 16th December 2015

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