It has been 15 years since I was last inside the House of Commons. November 1st 1990 marked the 15th anniversary of Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech which prompted that pompous ass Heseltine to stand against Thatcher for the Leadership of the Party. Three weeks later I was attending a trade union delegation to an all-Party meeting on Pensions in one of the Committee Rooms. One Labour MP, Tony Banks, chided his Tory counterparts by saying they found it difficult to concentrate because of events unfolding down the corridor. Well, down the corridor the Tories were busy applying the first touches to their summary execution of the Wicked Witch of Finchley. As she returned to Downing Street after the first ballot she was only 2 votes short of the margin she needed for victory and she announced she was going to fight on. Fatally (for her, if not the rest of us) she flew out to Paris for a European Summit, and by the time she got back a couple of days later, the game was up. From a seemingly invulnerable position she had been wiped from the political map in just a few short days.
Yesterday, I returned to the scene of that glorious crime. Walking down the corridor to the tea room near the Commons library, the TV screen flashed an update… The Minister for Work and Pensions, David Blunkett had resigned. A couple of hours later at Prime Minister’s Question Time, Michael Howard taunted Tony Blair, saying he had lost the support of his Cabinet and that he had “Office without power” (which seemed a bit rich from a man waiting for his P45 and was shortly going to be without either). The interesting things was that although the ‘loyalists’ hoping to climb the greasy pole dutifully supported the PM, the front bench seemed to find something interesting happening near their shoelaces. Still… I couldn’t help getting that feeling of déjà vu all over again, as that glorious tennis commentator said last year. A couple of hours later on, Blair came the closest he has got so far to a smack in the face when he won a division on a clause in the Terrorism Bill by a single vote. Turbulent times indeed.