Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Mark Durkan’s one-liners make him king of Westminster witC

Foyle MP Mark Durkan has warned of the economic effects of dissident republican activity
Foyle MP Mark Durkan has warned of the economic effects of dissident republican activity

Foyle MP Mark Durkan has won the Wit of the Year award at the annual Alternative Parliamentary Awards held in the House of Lords.

Now in its fifth year, the humorous event has become a fixture in the diaries of many of the 650 MPs and more than 700 Lords at Westminster.

The spirit behind the Wit of the Year award is as much about a Parliamentarian’s jocular nature and style in the tea-rooms and corridors of Westminster as much as in the House of Commons chamber itself.

Mr Durkan was presented with a framed caricature depicting the SDLP man winking, dressed in a dicky bow and pink shirt, and reading from a book of ‘Durkanisms’.

Welcoming the award, Mr Durkan jokingly said: “Natural Irish sense is what passes for wit in a British Parliament.

“I was asked if I would attend the awards but hadn't been told that I had actually won, just that I had been nominated. The odd time I do go along to things like this if my schedule allows it, so I don't just go when I am nominated.

“But when I heard that Eleanor Laing MP, who is a Tory, was doing the presentation I went — I didn't expect that she would call out my name.

“I assumed it would be Baroness Trumpinton, the 89-year-old who threw Tom King the fingers in the House of Lords and who was a big hit on Have I Got News For You.

“I believe I was nominated by some of those backbenchers who sit near me and overhear my observations about what is going on in Parliament.

“I only recently became aware that Angus McNeill often tweets what I say, so while there is not much room for wit in a lot of what I speak about in Parliament because it can be very serious issues, other times I can pass the odd remark.”

A total of four awards were made this year, most of which were humorous.

The other recipients this year were The Reshuffle Casualty of the Year, which went to Nick Harvey; The Assiduous Politician of the Year to Peter Bottomley, and the Unsung Hero of the Year, which was the single serious award and went to the Labour MP Tessa Jowell.

Factfile

Referring to anti-Agreement unionists he accused them of “antics, pedantics and semantics”.

Of his opponents in the DUP and Sinn Fein he accused them of “starring in their own stand-off”.

On a seasonal note, after unionists were asked what they wanted for Christmas and they said “decommissioning”, the veteran SDLP representative quipped “a cartridge in a pear tree”. During a Westminster debate on the credit crunch he accused the Government of having a “credibility crunch”.

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