It was all motherhood and apple pie. The star was the Prime Minister’s mother, Mary Cameron. On a question about public spending in Oxfordshire, young Dave responded to a heckle: “You want me to ask my mother? I know what my mother would say. She would look across the despatch box and say: Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the National Anthem”. Imagine the stir it would cause if Mary came out for Brexit. Boris would certainly have to smarten up to secure such an endorsement.
Later Cameron Jnr added: “My mother would be pleased to know that 1.9 million more people are going to A&E.” That sounded rather sinister, but I suppose it was meant in a positive way. As the discussion was about the NHS, it drifted into “If Nye Bevan was alive today he’d turn in his grave” mode. Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t think of a good retort on the spot but he later tweeted a quote from Einstein: “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes & shoddy furniture let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas & shoddy philosophies”. Jolly good – if only he had though of it on time.
But Corbyn is not quick on his feet. When he disputed the accuracy of a figure of 6,000 excess weekend deaths in the NHS, Dave’s response was that the true figure is even higher at 14,000. Corbyn just ploughed on, complaining about the 6,000 figure being exaggerated.
The apple pie section took up most of the rest of the time. Alberto Costa, a Tory MP with a Portugese name, an English constituency, a Scottish accent, spoke with the emotion of the Oscars about a subject of staggering mundanity. “A recent survey undertaken by Blaby District Council found that 96 per cent were satisfied with council services. Will the Prime Minister congratulate all the officers of Blaby District Council…?”
So it drifted on. Even Craig Mackinlay spoke up, not for the Rebel Alliance against the EU, but the “Ramsgate Regeneration Alliance”. Huw Merriman switched the subject to “talking therapies”.
At one stage, Cameron roused himself to work in a swipe at Damian McBride, the comeback kid and Emily Thornberry spin doctor. While Corbyn promised “a new politics that is honest, kinder and more caring, six months on and Damian McBride is back. That says it all!” The Islington Set tightens its grip.
An SNP MP, Callum McCaig, asked the PM: “Will he commit to reducing the tax level on oil and gas and support this vital industry?” in its “hour of need”. Sound fellow. Won’t someone please think of the oil executives?
We had to wait to the end for Europe – or “yerrup” as dear old Ted Heath would call it. Owen Paterson felt no need to suck up to the whips or to his local newspaper. He asked about Jeremy Heywood’s letter that civil servants could brief Ministers on the case for staying in – but not help Brexit-backing Ministers. Did this not breach impartiality requirements? “I’m very happy with the letter,” said Dave. I’m sure he is. Allowing Ministers to vote to leave the EU “doesn’t mean the civil service is neutral”. I held on to the old-fashioned notion that the civil service is politically neutral, but doubtless that is the old politics.
So generally it was rather an anti-climax. All those Eurosceptics decided to keep mum.