The Foreign Secretary quickly cottoned on to the fact that this was not going to be the most riveting of PMQs bust-ups. That of course meant there was only one thing for it: time to get in a bit of light chin-wagging (read: serious ministerial business). Attempting to avoid detection or accusations of rudeness while his leader held court, Boris decided the best strategy would be “The Cagney”. Popularised by the black and white film star, this technique involves leaning in to one’s co-conspirator with head bowed and quickly yapping out the opposite side of the mouth: a useful tactic when stuck in the can. Unfortunately for Boris while the Cagney works a charm for Noo-Yawk lags on lockdown, it is rather less effective when attempted by a booming old Etonian with a penchant for peppering his sentences with Latin. He never was any good at “oratio sub rosa” (that’s “Boris” for “talking in secret”).
Proceedings had begun with all paying unreserved tribute to those lost in Aberfan Disaster, including the Labour leader. Naturally there will be those concerned that this indicates a breach of Corbyn’s Law, they need not worry – had Jeremy known of any other mass landslide casualties they would undoubtedly have been duly referenced. The leader of the opposition then decided to question his opposite number on mental health and the NHS. It’s a subject quite literally close to his heart as he has spent every Wednesday afternoon for the past year sitting a foot away from a man slowly losing his mind. Although fortunately Tom Watson did opt for the first time in PMQs to unclasp his hands, meaning that the small mouse he would usually crush over the course of your average session happily managed to survive this Wednesday.
For a robust challenging of the government we had to wait until Angus Robertson rose, hitting Theresa May particularly hard on whether or not British Paveway IV missiles, “partially manufactured in Scotland”, had been used by the Saudis to harm civilians in Yemen. May dodged the question so the SNP’s leader in the Commons pushed her again and received a similarly evasive response. No doubt Robertson will be heralded a hero when he returns north of Hadrian’s Wall and brags about just how hard he pushed the PM to take away Scottish manufacturing jobs on the basis that they may harm the innocent. But where does it stop? After all, can they in good faith, continue to export whiskey, when some to whom they sell it will end up engaging in violence against unassuming citizens? Or North Sea oil, which powers tanks and jet planes that indiscriminately drop those very missiles Robertson so despises? Or for that matter haggis, deep fried mars bars, Scotch eggs, and bagpipes which are universally agreed to cause immeasurable distress to those cursed with good taste. In fact, can Robertson in good faith even allow any Scottish manufacturing to continue, bar shortbread? A Biscuit Republic is not an attractive proposition to voters mulling independence.
Bar this brief interlude, the PM was challenged on little, with not a single MP referencing the fiasco of the Benjamin Button-esque child refugees who’ve had the misfortune to land in Croydon recently. Indeed, some will have wondered where exactly was their principal evangelist, Strictly Come Dancing-WAG Yvette Cooper. Could it be that she cynically chose to sit out PMQs this week, being only all too aware that she might come a cropper? Might Glitterballs’ wife be increasingly concerned about just what her hubby is getting up to with the vampish dancer he’s been spending entire days with? Who would blame her for being wracked with worry, camped outside the Strictly studios trying to find out exactly what’s going on in there. Well, that puts paid to the lie that Labour don’t care about hard-working Eastern Europeans taking on unenviable British roles…