Last week the outgoing Prime Minister recalled being accosted when on a tour of New York with Mayor Bloomberg. “Hey, Cameron!” yelled a pedestrian, “Prime Minister’s Questions! We love your show!”. The House laughed, but it’s an interesting conceit, and one that is not without its merit. In the Commons relationships are strained and rivalries are fought out, fortunes are made and reputations are dashed, and season finales see big beasts die – and then sometimes come back to life (if you’re Dirty Den or Boris). All the while the show goes on.
However, if PMQs is a show, then one couldn’t shake the feeling that today’s was a repeat. It started off originally enough when John Glen kicked things off and the House turned to see George Osborne sitting just below him. This certainly was novel: the former Chancellor marooned on the backbenches, nodding along vacantly in the manner of a hostage going along with their captors’ script. Michael Gove was stranded in the cheap seats too, perhaps concentrating so hard on learning loyalty – as ordered by the Prime Minister – that he zoned out. So far, so different.
But then as Theresa May took to the despatch box one couldn’t help but notice her husband Philip beaming down with pride from the peers’ gallery above. Ah, now that’s when we’ve seen this one before! It was thirty years ago and back then another Prime Minister’s husband watched a grammar school girl from the provinces who went on to Oxford rip apart a shabbily dressed, white haired old lefty. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.