Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Peter's Friends

As comebacks go, it was relatively low key. "It's nice to be back," said Peter Hain, as he spoke from the despatch box for the first time in 17 months.

"Even though my appointment was marked by an earthquake a few miles from my home."

Having spent the past week elsewhere, I was prepared for parliamentary tumult after so many turbulent days.

Then I remembered: nah, it's Welsh Questions. Question Time turned into something of a love-in, with everyone apparently pleased to see Mr Hain back in charge.

Even Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd, a past critic of the Neath MP, welcomed him back.

His past and present shadow, Cheryl Gillan, found some warm words for the man axed to make way for Mr Hain's return.

"In welcoming the return of the new Secretary of State, I also want to express my admiration for his predecessor.

"I've enjoyed working with Mr Murphy, a decent and straightforward man.

"We will miss his common sense and dedication to Wales, and I wonder what sort
of Prime Minister we have who could so easily dispense with his services."

Lembit Opik told the Commons Mr Hain should not have had to stand down in the first place.

Mr Hain gave every appearance of enjoying his comeback. As I write, he's leading for the Government in a lively debate on Plaid Cymru's attempt to force a general election.

"Low turnout at elections is the clearest sign that the British people are not engaged with the political process: that is our fault and not theirs. We seem obsessed with procedure and tribal party politics and now the public think MPs are all in this for our own ends."

Low turn-out isn't confined to voters: I'd guesstimate that barely 10 per cent of MPs have turned up for the debate.

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