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PMQs sketch: Too much horsing around

WORDS: SAM MACRORY

Horses stalked today's PMQs. Not the unconvincing wannabe Tory leader versions, but the type that does a neat job in disguising itself as a hunk of beef.

They're everywhere. Nearby fields. Supermarket aisles. Your fridge.

And now Prime Minister's questions.

With MPs lining up to sink their teeth into some prime equine gags, Nigel Dodds began with a decidedly dodgy off cut. "If the PM is really serious about tackling the problem of misleading labeling and the contamination of product, what possible future is there for this Coalition with the Lib Dems?" he asked. Yes, the PM said, the Coalition must be clearly labelled. Cue a frantic tippexing of sell by dates.

Next up, Labour backbencher Anas Sarwar. "The Prime Minister was rightfully shocked at the revelations that many food products contain 100% horse. Does he share my concern that, if tested, many of his answers may contain 100% bull?"

Not bad, but that was too much horsing around for one day.

"I really think we've got to get a grip of this rather than make jokes about it" the Prime Minister replied, laughing throughout his ticking off of Anas. To underline his determination that horse-based jokes should be put out to pasture, the PM then promised to "think of another one by the end of the session."

But his warning seemed to have done the trick. The only clear labeling we heard about was a promise from the Prime Minister that the Tory candidate in the Eastleigh by-election would "be a straight-talking candidate that does exactly what it says on the tin." Talk about driving the points home.

To prove that not all Lib Dems struggle with straight-talk, up popped Julian Huppert. Earnest and hard-working, and not one of life's natural entertainers, Huppert has been marked out as the class swot – and not one likely to let you copy his homework. Groans broke out across the chamber. "Oh no…" MPs muttered audibly. Huppert blinked, and began to blush.

"It’s very discourteous of the House to issue a collective groan, and it’s quite inexplicable" the Speaker interjected, compounding Mr Huppert's awkwardness by playing the part of a parent who has stepped in to help their child in a playground dispute. Huppert quickly got his question away as chastised MPs tapped into the iPads.

They soon perked up at the galloping sound of returning horses, and the final equine-themed question risked sticking to the MP like glue.

"Is he still eating processed beef?" asked Labour's Ben Bradshaw.

It was a nasty question for David Cameron, a man who prefers a well marbled beef wellington filled with foie gras to a bag of processed frozen mince surprise from the value rack.

"I'm following very closely what the FSA say. What the FSA say is that there is nothing unsafe on our shelves."

In other words, he never has, and never will. There will be no horse-burgers at No.10 tonight. And no humble pie either. Mr Cameron had earlier made, well, mincemeat of Ed Miliband's line of questioning, casually toe-poking away a string of questions on living standards before kicking the Labour leader into touch all together.

"Ed Miliband is going to make a major speech on the economy on Thursday" read the Prime Minister from an invitation he had recently received, before adding the invitation's promise: "It won't have any new policies in it."

Sometimes, it seems, it doesn't always pay to have clear labeling. 

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