Eyes down for your OU degree essay on FMQ, theory and practice

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Scottish Parliament

Citizen Cuddis breaks the code behind First Minister’s Questions

Open University Module SP33: Honours degree in Scottish Politics

TMA03, ’First Ministers Questions’
Points: 60
Course Duration: 9 years

INSTRUCTIONS FOR STUDENTS:
Read the introductory sections below and the transcript of the FMQ session that follows. Then answer the essay question provided.

INTRODUCTION
What is First Minister’s Questions?

First Minister’s Questions is an opportunity for those in opposition to hold the government’s size nines to the Aga. This is a vital part of the democratic process. Even though true social flavoured democracy really hasn’t been much in evidence since Aristotle and his star pupil, Hypotenuse, paddled into Piraeus harbour in a coracle in 384 BCE to launch the world’s first democracy (The author cannot vouch for the authenticity of these historical facts but this course is about politics not history. Get over it.)

FMQs takes place each Thursday, unless everyone is feeling lethargic and wants a stramash to raise their spirits. In which case it is pulled forward to Wednesday.

How does it work?
The Presiding Officer, a sort of referee, announces each questioner in turn. Labour gets to ask the first question. Their leader, Spud Murphy, wears a Rangers top and is under house arrest in the press gallery because nobody has yet voted for him to sit downstairs with the rest of the grown ups.

The Spud: Psychic sphincter
The Spud: Psychic sphincter

Spud’s proxy, Kezia Dugdale, sits where Spud thinks he should be, communicating telepathically with her mentor in the balcony. Oscillations of Spud’s sphincter, which spike when he is caught fibbing, are thought to propagate waves at the same frequency as their psychic party line. This disrupts communications, as evidenced by the piss-poor quality of their arguments; especially those concerning the relative merits of the Scottish versus Chinese steel industry.

The Labour proxy asks the first of a series of woefully under-researched questions, often about crises in NHS Scotland which have as much substance as a Midsomer Murders storyline.

Everyone sits nicely and tries not to laugh. Then, Nicola Sturgeon gets to her feet and crushes the orc’s skull of Kezia’s flimsy argument with the stone troll’s war-hammer of her incisive put-downs (You’ve made the metaphor alarm turn red there, Cud. Ed).

Each question in the permitted series causes more Labour self-harm than the one that precedes it. The overall effect is analogous to someone falling down a coal cellar stair and whacking their head off every single tread on the way down, until they end up dazed and spread-eagled amongst the Nutty Slack. By the time the last question has been answered the questioner’s chin, as a prelude to the full bubble, is now wobbling like a well struck dinner gong. At this point the Presiding Officer dares the next questioner to do better. They normally don’t.

And so the talking stick is passed from the self-important to the important, and eventually to those at the rear of the hall, including some who have waited so long they can’t remember the question they were going to ask, and a couple Big Issue sellers who have simply snuck in for a heat.

As a coda, all those asking questions act out their humiliation by throwing off-mic wobblers, snatching office paraphernalia from their desktops and hurling them over their shoulders into the auditorium. The Big Issue salesmen go back to their pitches. In an attempt to heal wounds inflicted during FMQ there is a session of bingo comprising one full house, though this is rarely made available to the public.

TRANSCRIPT
Transcript of FMQ Session 345/2014

PRESIDING OFFICER:
‘Question number one, Kezia Dugdale’

(Kezia gets wearily to her feet. She has the hangdog expression of a guest on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ who has just learned that because a fellow celebrity has failed to eat the required number of wombat tadgers on her task, Kez will have to make a ping-pong sized ball of rice last for the next three days.)

Kezia: the one that isn't called Jenny
Kezia: the one that isn’t called Jenny

KEZIA DUGDALE:
‘Presiding Officer, right now there’s an actor lying on a bed of nails inside a ventilation shaft at a major Glasgow hospital. Without a pillow. He has been on the waiting list for a decade; that’s 10 years Presiding Officer. He’s been there so long that he no longer knows what he’s waiting for. And neither does the hospital. His Equity membership has lapsed. Presiding Officer, that’s vile.’

PRESIDING OFFICER:
‘Ms Dugdale, is there a question here?’

KEZIA DUGDALE:
‘Presiding Officer, Daily Record staff have discovered that the poor man has been awaiting surgery to move his centre parting six inches closer to his right ear. Presiding Officer, Vidal Spitoon (sic) once said, and I quote, ‘No man can serve his country if his parting is in the wrong place.’ So, will the First Minister please tell us why she is right and Vidal Spitoon (sic)is wrong?’

NICOLA STURGEON:
‘I am afraid the answer to your question will have to wait. High ranking Police Scotland officers have just arrived to arrest Jim Murphy for impersonating an MP.’ (Ed. Come on, this can’t be a real offence, the cells would be full Cuddis!)

PRESIDING OFFICER:
‘Kezia Dugdale, that’s you telt. Question number two, Ruth Davidson.’

(The Conservative leader gets up. She delivers a pre-amble to her question that is more difficult to grasp than the dramatis personae for War and Peace. By the time she reaches the question itself it is dark outside).

Ruth: Not really a Tory, just confused
Ruth: Not really a Tory, just confused

RUTH DAVIDSON:
‘Presiding Officer, the German writer and head-the-ball Erich Von Daniken believes that God was an astronaut. Is he wrong?

NICOLA STURGEON:
‘Yes.’

PRESIDING OFFICER:
‘Ruth Davidson, that’s you telt. Question number three, Willie Rennie.’

WILLIE RENNIE:
‘I can’t remember what I was going to ask, Presiding Officer, so I move that we start the bingo early.’

PRESIDING OFFICER:
‘Works for me Willie. Eyes down for a full house.’

ESSAY
Wee Willie Rennie is often mistaken for Wee Willie Winkie. Compare and contrast these two characters before deciding which is more likely to form a minority government in May.