Theresa May sat out PMQs today as she’s far away in Bahrain bowing to our Gulf overlords (peace be upon them). It turns out that fawning deference comes easy when in the presence of the assorted head-choppers, slave-drivers and anti-Semites that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council. If only she could muster the same diplomatic humility when Time’s Person of the Year kindly requests a new ambassador…
Of course the far greater crime is that the PM’s absence means we have to sit through half an hour of Emily Thornberry. Lady Nugee knows she effortlessly radiates sneering contempt for the lower orders and thus does her damned best to hide it. It was all going well today too, with her starting by commemorating the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbour: “where thousands of American service personnel and civilians died”. Or as Corbyn would frame it: “Where brave Japanese fighter pilots made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle against American imperialism in the Pacific”.
Thornberry then tied it skillfully – the hand of Damian McBride was detected – into Winston Churchill’s comment following the attack that parliament should “play its full part in all important acts of the state”, linking this to the debate on Brexit and inquiring innocently: “Does the government want to the UK to remain part of the customs union?”. Ah, the cherished customs union, held close to the bosom of working men and women up and down the land, cheers’d to in pubs and prayers offered on behalf of before the Sunday Roast: she’s surely onto a winner there.
Had Mr. Lidington had the rhetorical flourish of our Foreign Secretary he might at this point have gone on a lengthy philosophical extension of Mrs. Thornberry’s analogy. “What an apt metaphor”, he could opine with a glint in his eye, “because was not Winston Churchill also standing up to a corrupt and totalitarian European superstate despite being assailed on all sides of the House by appeasers!” No such luck.
Lady Nugee is a woman completely devoid of self-awareness; for whom the word hypocrisy is an abstract concept of which others may be found guilty but that can never be applied to herself; who is so above the petty concerns of party politics that she practically floats on a cloud of her own self-superiority, dispensing wisdom in soft tones while cocking her head to one side and smiling at her interlocutor like one would at a toddler failing to do up their shoe-laces.
And so quite naturally she sighed, and simpered, and wagged her finger at poor Mr. Lidington, who for his part decided to take parliamentary convention to its fullest logical conclusion by not only addressing his responses to the speaker, but looking at him too. In fact I don’t think he once made eye contact with the Shadow Foreign Secretary throughout the entirety of the session.
Lidders tried to compare the Labour Party to the Mutiny on the Bounty. Presumably in this analogy Thornberry is one of the enticing Polynesians in grass skirts trying to encourage the good ship Labour to completely abandon its founding mission. (Apologies here proffered for that image).
Of course the mask inevitably did slip, and by her fourth question Mrs. Thornberry was smirking as she reproved the Leader of the House. “Dear, oh dear,” she sighed self-importantly, leaning forward onto the despatch box with her mitts gleefully clasped together, “we’re not asking for details. We’re asking about a central plank of the negotiations”. Not to be confused with Guy Verhofstadt, who is the central plank in the negotiations.
By now Thornberry was giving it the full ticked-off headmistress treatment. With her eyes closed and her eyebrows raised, she threatened that “if he cannot give us an answer on the customs union as a whole…”. At this point the jeering got so much as to cut off the Shadow Foreign Secretary, but one can safely assume the remainder of the sentence was: “the honourable gentleman will have his phone confiscated and spend every day after school this week in detention”.
Finally we of course must confront the wider philosophical question raised by the Shadow Foreign Secretary’s PMQs stint: namely whether or not she is the worst person in the known universe or if in fact there are others more worthy of the title. Pondering it over one could well argue that Bashar al-Assad, or even that Joseph Kony fellow, are worse. But then you have to ask yourself, does Kony stop outside a mud-hut draped in the Ugandan flag and tweet “Image from #Lugazi”? No. No he does not. Partly because he doesn’t have Twitter, admittedly. But also because he’s just not as nasty as Emily Thornberry.