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And MPs lapped it up

There was a delightful example of the intricacies of parliamentary etiquette this week when the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, Bob Russell, was in full flow against the "despicable and callous" decision by Essex county council to scrap its school meals service.

"This is a deplorable act against children, many of whom are from disadvantaged families," Mr Russell fulminated. "Even milk-snatcher Thatcher, infamous for doing away with schoolI" At which point Mr Russell was interrupted by a loud shout of "Order" from the Deputy Speaker, who added: "It is a courtesy that we practise in the House when referring to members of the upper house to refer to them in the proper way, and not in a manner such as that used by the honourable gentleman."

Chastened, Mr Russell reiterated his point with somewhat more care: "Even Baroness Thatcher the milk-snatcher never attacked some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

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