Hey you at the back: wipe that smile off your face.

Speaker Lockwood Smith did not couch his warnings in quite such authoritarian tones as he struggled to impose some vestige of discipline on a Parliament which was yesterday in one of its more juvenile moods.

Smith is far too polite to lecture in such schoolmasterly fashion. But he was exasperated.

"I say to some of the members at the back of the chamber I do not expect to be laughed at like that," the Speaker spluttered after National backbenchers had done just that - laugh - when he had asked for a little courtesy to be shown to Labour's Chris Hipkins.

Smith pleaded that the Labour MP was doing nothing more than trying to ask a supplementary question. In National's eyes, however, the Rimutaka MP's crime has been to do a lot more by asking a few too many written parliamentary questions on things like ministerial travel and accommodation.

That has made him fair game in an environment where MPs hunt in packs otherwise known as political parties. Making him an even easier target to hit is Hipkins' fortune (or misfortune) to have the boyish good looks of the kind of wholesome American teenager who used to inhabit 1960s television programmes like The Dick Van Dyke Show or My Three Sons.

"You don't send a boy to do a man's job," interjected one unidentifiable National MP as Hipkins shrugged off the name-calling which ran from "water boy", "orange boy", "Master Hipkins" through to "Chippie", the moniker by which Labour colleagues affectionately refer to him.

Hipkins' torment, however, extended beyond question-time into the following free-for-all general debate.

First up was National heavy-hitter Gerry Brownlee, who had been perusing Labour blogsites. Brownlee had come across a proposal on the Labour Party's official site for members to use the symbolism of Labour Day to hold fund-raising parties up and down the country.

He may have been stretching things, but this was good enough for Brownlee to proclaim that it was "barbecue season" in the Labour Party once again. "Barbecue season" is a reference to a barbecue held at Phil Goff's home back in the 1990s attended by members of the Labour caucus at a time when Helen Clark's leadership was under question. Goff may be having problems as leader, but he is not spit-roast material yet.

Brownlee found better material in an item Hipkins had posted on Red Alert, the blogsite reserved for Labour MPs.

Hipkins had made the classic error of thinking aloud about the huge gap in the polls between his party and National.

"Kiwis are fair minded people and will be willing to give them [National] a fair go at the job before they pass judgment." Hipkins wrote last weekend. "I expect that will be reflected in the opinion polls for most of the current parliamentary term. I would be very surprised if we make much of a dent in the poll gap before election year."

Brownlee had a field day repeating the quotes to delighted colleagues.

For the hapless Hipkins, it was a lesson in why politicians are less than honest even when the wheels are falling off the political vehicle in which they are travelling: that things are always going swimmingly well no matter how bleak and desperate the reality.