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Goodwill soon gives way to Santa jokes and hunting jibes

IT is, after all, the season of goodwill, mince pies and political humbug, so PMQs began in a rather collegiate manner with Blue Dave and Red Ed hugging each other manfully over our brave lads and lassies in Afghanistan and giving medals to the heroes of the Arctic convoy.

Spotted arms folded near the Commons entrance was none other than Andrew Mitchell, the policeman's friend, who was – after the CCTV revelation – looking particularly smug with himself. Colleagues, who had since Plebgate shunned the ex(pletive)-Chief Whip, sidled up to him and, smiling, patted him on the back, no doubt removing the stilettos they had previously inserted.

The charming consensus began to crumble when the chief comrade mentioned how there were six times the number of people using food banks than three years ago.

Rather creatively, the PM turned the subject of poverty to volunteers and the Big Society, which got the Labour benches rolling their eyes in disbelief. Red Ed pointed out how he did not think the Big Society was about feeding hungry children in Britain and his response showed how Dave was out of touch given he was giving a taxbreak to millionaires.

The crimson tide started rising as Flashman barked back that what was out of touch was the Socialists denying there was a deficit, left by them, to deal with. The Tories found their voices in approval.

Red Ed, his stare fixed, rose and insisted people knew who the PM stood up for, noting how last weekend he was quaffing champagne with none other than Rebekah Brooks, the (alleged) wicked witch from News International. "No doubt both looking forward to the Boxing Day hunt," added Ed to Labour MPs making horn noises.

Dave sought to recover by making a joke in which he praised Ed Balls for doing a great job playing Santa at the Downing Street Christmas Party every year. "Why not give everyone an early Christmas present, make the arrangement permanent and give him the sack?"

It was such a bad joke Labour MPs were laughing with great irony.

Meanwhile, in the back pew was Charlie Kennedy with one arm leaning heavily against the oak panelling. He appeared, with his chin down, to be earnestly consulting his Blackberry, but when his arm fell down and his head shook back vigorously, it seemed he had in fact been consulting the inside of his eyelids. It's been a hard year. Time to go northwards for Christmas.

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