The biggest revelation at today’s PMQs was not that Cameron’s backbenchers are divided over Europe or that Labour backbenchers are phoning Dignitas for leadership advice.
No, it’s that the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are too thick to handle democracy. At least, you could conclude that from what the supremely pompous Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, told the chamber today.
Six weeks is too short a time after the devolved elections in May to hold a European referendum, he declared, so the PM better gang homewards tae think again. Angus is one of those self-made men who worships his creator, so the implications of his request – echoing a letter sent by the three leaders of the regional assemblies earlier today – should have been obvious. American voters (for example) are frequently faced with electing a president, a governor, a senator, a congressman and a multitude of local officials all on the same November day. But Scots’ wee brains would explode if they’ve only got a six-week rest period between ballot papers, apparently.
Elsewhere in the session, bewildered pensioner Jeremy Corbyn could have helped expose the chasm between Cameron and his parliamentary party by baiting the PM on his Europe deal, the gist of which seems to be that the UK will be allowed to stay in the EU so long as it behaves itself and does what it’s told. But no, instead Comrade Corbyn chose to unite the House by asking about cancer patients. His ordinary citizen du jour was someone called Martin (cue Tory groans and a reprimand from Corbyn: “It’s not funny!”). The only problem was that it was “a close friend” of Martin’s who had the problem with her benefits and the Labour leader didn’t appear to have got her name. This whole “ordinary people” schtick doesn’t quite work when he doesn’t know the name of the ordinary person in question.
Cameron swatted the questions aside as usual – he looks as if he’s unsure who Corbyn is or why he’s allowed to ask so many questions every week – and settled down to his regular pattern of alternate displays of earnestness and outrage.
He must have found that first one difficult when Rehman Chishti, one of his own backbenchers, asked him to reclassify tobacco as a Class C drug (alongside GBH, ketamine and anabolic steroids) if it’s being sold illegally and the taxman, therefore, isn’t taking a cut. So this is what it’s come to? Backbenchers so desperate to get a headline in their local paper that they think no-one will notice that the MP in question is okay with legally-sold fags staying as they are, but 200 Benson and Hedges off the Calais ferry should be reclassified as a date rape drug? Jesus wept…
Scoring the own goals for the Labour team was Stella Creasy, a bright young thing who nearly became the party’s deputy leader last year and who is hated by Corbyn’s Trotskyite thugs in Momentum. Maybe she was trying to ingratiate herself with them by slagging off the PFI deal for her own local hospital – a deal struck by the last Labour government. A gift for Cameron, therefore. “Sometimes it takes a long time to unwind the damage done by a Labour government,” quipped Dave. I think he meant “unravel”, but we get his point.
His best line came when talking about Trident – something of an open goal, given his opponents’ haverings on the subject recently. Corbyn’s most recent suggestion is that unarmed Trident subs might be used to ferry British soldiers across the globe, a suggestion that might as well have come from a focus group held in Bedlam. Dave described it, pretty humorously and accurately, as “the most expensive Über service that anyone has ever thought of!”, a phrase that might well stick. “Makes you wonder what they’ll come up with next!” he added, to an assortment of shrieking and swooning on the benches behind him. And that’s just the blokes.
Another win for Dave. But so what? He must be finding it all very unsatisfying by now, like being the school’s best swimmer when all your class mates are aquaphobes.