It is almost like history repeating itself. In the mid ’70s, I came down on the train and my Whip told me that there would be a few tributes to Anthony Eden and that then the House would finish for the day. I thought, “Surely, that’s not fair. We’re actually packing up because Anthony Eden, who was living in the Caribbean, has died. So the tributes will be paid and then the House will finish for the rest of the day.” I had an argument with the Labour Whip, and then I went in for the tributes. I had not been here very long and I am not so sure I thought at the time it would be a good idea for me to say anything, because, as sure as night followed day, a lot of people were going to pay these tributes to Anthony Eden, who some of them had never even seen. So it is not as if this has not happened before.
I had been a miner for 20-odd years, I said that when I worked down the pit and somebody died, four people took him out on a trolley along the rails, and they were allowed to go home and the rest of the pit continued to work, because people like us had managed to secure a tiny agreement with the National Coal Board to get £250 for the miner’s widow. On that basis, the rest of us went to work. What I am trying to convey is that the people who concern me now are the people out there having to suffer austerity, the benefit cuts and the increasing costs of their own funeral. They are just like the people who concerned me back in the days of 1975—the miners I had left behind in order to speak for them in Parliament. I remember all the Tories walking out the moment I made that kind of criticism. I suppose it is an indication of the split Tory party that some of them are staying today, because they have not followed their leader. Indeed, the leader has not ordered them out.
Let’s not kid ourselves. We hear talk about the thing that we sometimes suggest has gone away: class. That’s what it is: it is about class. It’s about the fact that people out there have to live their lives in a different way and that there is one rule for those at the top and another for those at the bottom. It has never changed—I wish it had, but it hasn’t.
I heard about the chain of events—because that is what it was: it seemed to grow like Topsy. First of all there was going to be some sort of ceremonial funeral. The next thing we hear—I have to say it to you, Mr Speaker—is you telling us that the chimes of Big Ben are going to stop. Then we hear that we are going to abandon Prime Minister’s Question Time. What’s it all about? That is why the people out there are angry—a lot of them. I am not suggesting for a minute that there is a majority—I never have—but I do believe that this Government are out of touch with the people out there on a big scale, and this in the same week when benefits were cut again. We should of course have Prime Minister’s Question Time.