Jeremy Corbyn began PMQs today with a damning tirade against patients waiting “up to 13 hours and 52 minutes to be seen” at the Royal Blackburn A&E department: a frustrating delay that is coincidentally is the exact same amount of time it takes to get a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn during a reshuffle. Before he could get into his stride however a cacophony of sedentary chuntering threatened to drown him out completely. In response the Labour leader pressed on with his hectoring but tempered it with aggrieved glances towards the speaker, rather in the manner of a footballer who had been fouled but wanted to signal his displeasure whilst gamely playing on nonetheless. “Speaker! ‘Ave a word!”
As it happens the ref did intervene. Damning the taunts as “a discourtesy to the House of Commons”, the Speaker loftily reminded the Chamber of its duty to allow honorable members to be heard. Quite when notorious cuckold and self-promoting dwarf John Bercow acquired such respect for the dignity of Parliament is anyone’s guess. It must have been some time after his wife appeared on Celebrity Big Brother 8 and then decided to shack up with a gypsy bareknuckle fighter for a Channel 5 documentary. But then again it must also have been subsequent to his recent decision to summarily disregard 400 years of Parliamentary convention concerning the Speaker’s neutrality by attacking the US President, all in order to bask in the reflective glow of his own virtue. Perhaps over the last few days Mr. Bercow has had a Damascene conversion, and we can in future expect him to act like a man aware of the gravity of his office.
NHS moaning. Bercow grandstanding. “Same old, same old!”, I hear you cry. But no dear reader today was different because this afternoon Jeremy Corbyn came to PMQs with a scoop up his sleeve. Yes it turns out that the cunning old fox had got his hands on a text message conversation between the leader of Surrey Council and a person he thought was a government official called Nick – but actually turned out to be a quite different Nick who supports the Labour Party. This quite different Nick then forwarded the texts to Labour higher-ups showing the Tory council leader had secured money from government in return for shelving plans for a politically difficult referendum. Now all Labour needed was a clever chap to condense this issue into an easily understandable PMQs question. Unfortunately they had Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour leader’s questions on such a complex issue sounded not dissimilar to how a seven year old would if they had to explain particle physics to the class having just seen a five minute Blue Peter segment on the Large Hadron Collider. Mr. Corbyn talked conspiratorially about a “memorandum of understanding”, and “leaked texts” outlining “sweetheart deals”, but didn’t ever explain just what the wider issue was. Realising he was failing to really get his point across he decided to compare the text exchanges to something out of a “John le Carré novel”. The Councillor Who Came in from the Cold.
Theresa May brushed off Corbyn’s strange talk of text messages and shadowy intrigue by accusing him of peddling “alternative facts”, Trump style. At this point Jeremy Corbyn’s face sunk: he’d got a scoop, but so low was his credibility that it’s intended target decided they would instead question its veracity. Safe in the knowledge that there was a significant chance that this was in some way a Labour cock-up.
But was Mrs. May on solid ground levelling accusations of Trump-style politics across the Chamber? Towards the end of the session SNP MP Patrick Grady rose to request a curtailing of Parliamentary filibustering, only to find himself on the receiving end of a well-received comedic routine from the PM. Mrs. May recounted how last night she was watching BBC Parliament and “saw the honorable gentleman speaking”, she then turned over to something else and “switched back to the Parliamentary channel and he was still speaking”. Once more the PM did this and confirmed that the Glasgow MP was “still speaking!”. Late at night, channel hopping through the political broadcasts and making wry observations, the only way the PM could have been more Trump in here response was if she’d fired out a tweet: “Glasgow MP, total LOSER ranting about Brexit for TEN minutes now! Flick channels to SNL (failing) and flick back and he’s STILL ranting. Sad! So Sad!”