News flash! A strike by junior doctors is taking place. So naturally, if you want to know what our elected leaders are doing about it, tune into the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions.
What’s that you say? Not a single question or comment about the risk to patients from this unprecedented action? Surely not?!
Talk about being in touch with the public, eh?
Never mind, Jez was boldly holding the government to account anyway. Every MP has at least one old codger, describing himself as a “community activist”, who never fails to turn up at the monthly advice surgery carrying a plastic bag from which he produces a large, thick folder of (the dreaded word) statistics, from which he will read in serious but monotonous tones. David Cameron must feel that his own old codger is now following him even into the chamber. At least Corbyn had left his Asda bag outside.
The Labour “leader” was, however, wearing a nifty new lapel badge declaring, lest there was any doubt, that he “hearts” unions. Usually, when such a campaign is launched, you end up with a whole swathe of sympathetic MPs sporting whatever badge or scarf or hat is being used to generate publicity during the most (only?) watched event in parliament’s calendar. But not today – Jez was the only Labour frontbencher proudly wearing his badge. I wonder why?
The last time there was a doctor’s strike, Corbyn harangued the PM about housing. Today, he decided to harangue the PM about… housing. And yes, I know it’s important and it’s all dreadful and I’m sure young Rosie (whom Corbyn said had written to him about the issue) is having a hard time having to live in the bedroom she grew up in rather than get a place of her own. But my God, the man can bore for Britain! Even his attempts at sounding a bit angry towards the end came across like one of those nutters who used to walk round with signs saying “The End Is Nigh”, not quite believing it himself but getting a bit annoyed about it all the same.
Dave, on the other hand, was on fire. Some weeks he looks like he can’t be bothered taking Corbyn seriously. Today he obviously felt so relieved that he wasn’t being asked about any of the difficult stuff – the doctor’s strike or his European “deal” (another dog that didn’t bark today, incidentally), that he decided to give Jez both barrels. The Tories were building more social homes for rent than the last Labour government, were lowering rents and cutting back on large litters of benefit claimants getting six-figure payouts from the housing benefit budget. He left the old bloke opposite frowning as he confusedly shifted through his paperwork.
It’s really awfully good of the two frontbenches, plus the inevitable and tiresome Scotch nationalist, to leave the last third of the session for backbenchers to ask their questions. The highlight here was the Tory MP Victoria Atkins, capturing the mood of the House by entertainingly excoriating a UN committee “that nobody has ever heard of” for concluding that James Bond baddie Julian Assange has been unfairly detained these past three and a half years. “If anyone is deserving of compensation it is the British taxpayer who has had to pay £12 million to police his Ecuadorian hideout!”
Bravely, Dave agreed.
It wouldn’t be PMQs without somebody – in this case Tory Nigel Adams – having a dig at the continuing slapstick comedy that is the Labour Party. Shadow Defence Secretary Lady Nugee was in the firing line (pun intended) after telling her own open-mouthed MPs the other night that Trident was as relevant to the UK’s defence today as a Spitfire.
Then the Defence Committee chair Julian Lewis (close your eyes and you can imagine he’s your nan on the verge of tears) joined in with a plea for the vote on Trident renewal to take place sooner rather than later: ”It must be tempting for him to put off the vote until the Labour conference in October. May I urge him, however, to do the statesmanlike thing and hold that vote as soon as possible?”
Maybe, maybe not, Dave didn’t quite reply, eyeing up Corbyn, who was pretending not to hear any of it because he was too busy polishing his shiny new badge.