Grant Woodward: Here’s proof we’re not living in a real democracy

Sam Brown is waiting for a decision on whether his medication will be provided on the NHS.
Sam Brown is waiting for a decision on whether his medication will be provided on the NHS.
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Row over MP’s question on drug funding shows farce of our political system.

THERE were some quite extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons this week.

No, don’t switch off just because I’m talking politics – this was actually pretty serious stuff.

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland stormed out after getting involved in a verbal dust-up with Speaker John Bercow – the bloke who referees the parliamentary sessions.

“Don’t shake your head mate,” Bercow told the Lib Dem MP, having warned him not to “argue the toss”.

As Mulholland marched out, pint-sized despot Bercow couldn’t resist another dig: “Leave, that’s fine – we can manage without you.”

Jeez, you’re probably thinking, Mulholland must have done something pretty serious.

Not really. He was just trying to ask the Health Secretary if the Government would fund a drug that’s keeping some of his constituents alive.

Sam Brown, from Otley, is six-years-old. His smile could power the national grid. Yet he suffers from something called Morquio syndrome.

It’s left him dependent on the drug Vimizim, which offers him a shot at a long and healthy life he simply wouldn’t otherwise have.

The company that makes it has been giving out free supplies while the NHS decides whether to pay for it to be provided to Sam and fellow sufferers such as Cookridge brothers Jack and Lewis Bird.

The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, promised a couple of weeks ago that there would be a decision on it by the end of June.

But now it’s been announced there won’t be one until October – a potential four-month delay that could have horrendous consequences for sufferers’ health now the free supplies have stopped.

Hence the reason Greg Mulholland was asking the question. But Bercow didn’t even let him get to the end of it.

The Speaker claimed Mulholland’s query was too long-winded. He ordered him to sit down and, effectively, shut up.

How many words had the Leeds MP uttered? Just 60.

Other MPs in the same session had prattled on about far less important stuff for twice as long without getting a tongue-lashing from the Speaker.

So our great democratic system won’t even allow the man in charge of the NHS to be asked a question – one on which lives could depend – that takes less time than it does to open a tin of beans.

What makes the whole thing even more of a sham is the weekly nonsense that is Prime Minister’s Questions.

This sorry pantomime is meant to be an opportunity to put the PM on the spot and get answers to the burning issues affecting the country.

Instead we get a pathetic Punch and Judy show which runs to a set pattern you can predict in your sleep.

The Labour leader (or Harriet Harman until they get a proper one) will stand up and have a pop at David Cameron that will consist of one-part substance and three-parts soundbites.

Cameron will get to his feet and sneer that we wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for what Labour did when they were in power.

Then a toadyish Tory backbencher will ask a question that isn’t really a question at all but simply a transparent opportunity for Cameron to blow his own trumpet about a drop in unemployment or better than expected trade figures.

The whole thing is a joke. And yet when it comes to the really important stuff – you know, the issues that actually matter to real people in real places like Leeds – you get a jumped-up twerp like John Bercow telling MPs to put a sock in it.

Greg Mulholland was raising an important matter that the Health Secretary has a moral duty to address. In other words, he was doing his job.

If those we elect aren’t even allowed to do that then this isn’t really a democracy at all, is it?

Ashes has sprung a leek

WATCHING the tennis from the lush green lawns of Wimbledon can be a pretty confusing business at times.

You’ve got a bloke from Montenegro playing for Canada, a dreadlocked giant with an American twang representing Germany and – most bewildering of all – a chap from Scotland who claims he’s playing for Britain.

But that’s nothing compared to the farce in the Ashes.

The Ashes is a cricket series that’s played between England and Australia.

You already knew that, right?

Well in that case you’re clearly one step ahead of English cricket bosses, who decided to stage the showpiece first match of the series in Cardiff.

Now, perhaps they didn’t know this, but Cardiff is actually in Wales.

In an epic sporting clash where home advantage can be vital, we’re effectively playing the first game on neutral territory.

So before the cricket started yesterday, fans who had made the journey from England were treated to a rendition of Bread of Heaven and a giant Welsh flag being spun in a circle.

Nothing like a bit of stirring patriotism to fire up the English boys and rattle the Aussies is there?

I’m now wondering whether administrators in other sports will be tempted to follow suit.

Maybe the FA will think about staging England’s ‘home’ football games in Glasgow, for instance. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Can’t we watch our kids grow up?

BEING the dad of young twins, a colleague thought I’d be excited by George Osborne’s Budget announcement yesterday that three and four-year-olds would be entitled to 30 hours a week free childcare.

I reminded him mine start school this September so it won’t apply to them, but it got me wondering how anyone could think this was a good thing anyway.

Do parents really want to hand over their children to virtual strangers at the age of three just so they can work all the hours God sends?

Those precious early years fly by so fast that if you blink you’ll miss them.

So how about the Government instead making sure companies offer the sort of flexible working that gives mums and dads a chance to actually see their kids grow up?

Given that they claim to stand for family values, you might think the Tories would get the importance of parents spending more time with their kids rather than less. Clearly not.