First thing Monday discover I have question number 1 on the Order Paper to David Blunkett as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. And yes – today is the day when he is all over the papers for buying shares in a DNA company and being on the Board without asking the advice of the Advisory Committee – a committee set up to help ex-ministers stay out of trouble.
My question is on pensions – which is the real issue – and the real problem with having a Minister seemingly too distracted by other issues. I get one supplementary and have a dilemma – if I don’t mention the current problems it would be bizarre – if I do the House will not like it (apparently it’s not “the done thing”). So I steer a middle course, merely asking if his judgement having been so recently called into question might make it a problem for him to unite a divided cabinet over solving the urgent pension crisis.
He was not best pleased and gave me a right bollocking for daring to ask and for not understanding that it is impolite to use questions to the Minister to ask a question to the Minister (!). He clearly didn’t like the question and raw nerves are, not surprisingly, easily set off.
For all Blunkett’s condescension, he – in answer to another question – happily joked about his virility. So talking about his virility at question time is ok, but asking if he’s able to do his job isn’t!
The more important point is what is going to happen to pensions. Blunkett may well survive this time, but the need for Labour to join the growing consensus around radical pension reform is pressing – and hopefully that is where he will turn his attention.
Late evening on Monday do a live radio show from a radio car outside my home. A Labour MP down a line somewhere else, Edwina Currie and another in the studio – all about Blunkett. Found myself in uncharted water with Edwina Currie congratulating me on my confrontation with the Minister. Politics makes strange bedfellows…