And so today saw the Chancellor grace us with his first PMQs appearance for almost a month. Such reticence from the man is common these days. George Osborne is becoming increasingly Rasputin-eqsue. In the shadows he lurks, wielding power over the Tsar, dripping poison in his ear and making outlandish predictions for the future. “I’ll eradicate the debt and cut the deficit” he’ll whisper, “each family will be four thousand three hundred pounds worse off if we leave” he’ll hiss. And when his untruths and false promises are questioned, he retreats from view, leaving the ruler to lumber in on his behalf to placate the angry and ignored. Of course any man who knows his Russian history knows how this story ends. Old Rasputin was poisoned, shot, bludgeoned, and drowned by those angered by his influence, with the entire saga only further weakening the regime he was so bound up with and hastening its collapse. One wonders how long is till Osborne, like the Russian, washes up on the banks of the Thames, peppered with bullet holes but still faintly breathing, sighing “long… term… economic… plan”.
Onto proceedings. Nigel Adams got things underway by praising the “dignity and grace” of her Maj ahead of the big Nine O tomorrow, a day that promised to be “a proper knees up” at the very least. The PM reiterated the Selby MP’s sentiments, before laying a trap for his opposite number. “I know the whole country and the whole house”, Cameron innocently opined, “will want to join me in saying, Long may she reign o’er us”. Corbyn wouldn’t play ball. “Thank you Mr. Speaker”, he replied plainly, “I am also looking forward to wishing her a happy birthday tomorrow”, notably missing out any celebration of the continuation of her reign. In other words, have a good one Liz, but don’t have too many more.
Such backhanded compliments led BBC reporter Norman Smith to ask Team Corbyn if they had put “more effort and preparation into PMQs this week”, after “sharper lines from the Labour leader”. “No, same effort as always” came the response. So that’s no effort at all then”. In fact one can’t help but wonder if Jeremy deliberately uses the occasion to irritate as many Labour moderates as possible. You can imagine the scene in his office before he walks into the chamber, with the Labour leader casually getting out of shell-suit and into his suit-suit. “Is this tie red?” he’d ask. “No, Jeremy it’s a sort of burnt orange,” an aide replies. “Yeah,” another pipes up, “looks more like tangerine to me”. “Oh well. It’ll have to do,” he’d shrug, tying it loosely around his neck before ambling out past Savile Row tailored Chuka to the front bench.
It was in this vein that he opted to not allow McDonalds to host a stall at the party’s upcoming Autumn conference. Jeremy decided the world’s most famous purveyor of fast foods was just too gauche, too carnivorous, and too working-class to warrant the privilege of paying £30,000 to advertise to the great and the good of the Labour Party. But perhaps more importantly, it would really wind up the Blairites.
But the moderates weren’t the only ones that noticed Big Mac Gate. Having wasted his three questions on academies, Corbyn faced an onslaught from Cameron over the banning of the fast-food giant. “When I read they were going to ban McDonnell from their party conference” he boomed, “I thought it was the first sensible decision they’d made. But it turns out it wasn’t the job destroyer they wanted to keep away from their conference, it was one of Britain’s biggest employers. No wonder Labour MPs are in despair. Frankly I’m lovin’ it”. The Tory benches roared, as they should – few in politics deliver a humorous parting blow better than Cameron.
Having dispensed the opposition with ease, he now faced the harder task of facing up to his own party and defending his much reviled Chancellor and his dodgy dossier. Christopher Chope asked the PM about the Treasury’s prediction that staying in the EU would leave us with “3 million more migrants will by 2030”. On shaky ground Cameron passed the buck: “The point about the Treasury forecast is that it take the ONS figures and the ORB figures and it doesn’t alter them” Cameron responded going on to praise “a very clear and pure argument that shows what happen if Britain leaves the EU” by using “independent and clear statistics”.
Readers can here observe the fundamental law of Cameronomics. The truth of a report (rated here out of ten) is inversely proportional to how many times Cameron (a) attempts to distance himself from it by referencing wider institutions, or (b) stresses it’s “independence”, “clarity” or “purity”. (For George Osborne the equation is supplied below in mathematical formula)
T = N ÷ (W + R)
T = Truth
W = Attempts to distance through references to wider institutions
R = References to “independence”, “clarity” or “purity”
N = Number of reports Cameron is defending (in this case = 1)
The validity of this fundamental formula of Cameronomics was proven again when the PM dodged Liam Fox’s question by informing him that “the Treasury document is very clear about not trying to make all different assumptions about variables”. A meaningless sentiment that both managed to stress “clarity” and absolve Cameron of responsibility by palming it off onto the Treasury.
Ken Clarke forced Cameron to crick his neck turning round to listen to him drone on about the grandeur of Brussels, Stella Creasy popped up dressed in a pair of what one can only discern to be turquoise curtains, and Nigel Dodds asked about the peace process in Northern Ireland whilst the PM looked on bemused. A highlight came when Cameron, fire in his eyes, had a pop at “Lady Nugee” and her buy to let investment in social housing Islington. One only wishes the camera would have panned to the Shadow Defence Secretary at that moment, as it’s a reasonable assumption that she prefers not to be referred to by her correct title in front of the voters.
Finally Swansea MP Geraint Davies asked a question about pollution reduction. “Mr. Speaker, the air in our cities is both toxic and illegal” he said anxiously, adding that the “fumes contribute to 800 deaths a week”. Sitting just in front of him, Labour’s Shadow City Minister Richard Burgon, better known as the “farting commie“, shuffled in his seat.