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18 March 2015

What made one opposition frontbencher make this face?

Strange scenes at the last International Development questions of the parliament.

By Stephen Bush

Strange scenes during the last Dfid questions of the parliament.  Lisa Nandy, who recently spoke to my colleague Anoosh, had a question about Gaza’s plight:

As winter approaches, the Minister will know that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire. It is welcome that the UK has pledged £20 million to help, but what is his Government’s long-term plan, given the re-election this morning of the Prime Minister who believes that the continuation of the blockade of Gaza is a good thing; believes in the building of illegal settlements; has abandoned a two-state solution; and believes that the deaths of more than 2,000 people in Gaza last summer were “proportionate”? Surely now is the time for the Minister to put pressure on his ministerial colleagues, recognise the state of Palestine and end this appalling situation.”

To which Desmond Swayne, the minister for international development, gave this somewhat strange reply:

The hon. Lady is right in that the state of affairs in Gaza is desperate. However, on the recent events and the election, I am tempted to call in aid the wisdom of the Ents.”

For those of you who aren’t fans of the Lord of the Rings, I should explain that the Ents are giant tree-people whose motto is “Let’s not be hasty”.  All of this left Nandy somewhat taken aback, not least the crisis in Gaza has been going for some time.

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(It’s worth noting that the plot of The Two Towers is only resolved when the Ents end their period of slow deliberation, realise that the Hobbits were right all along and join the fray. The implications this has for Britain’s stance towards the Middle East is not immediately clear.)