Luckily today’s PMQs saw a return to the pantomime of days past thanks to the Labour leader’s decision to read a letter from Eileen, a primary school teacher. Here I’m disappointed to report that it took Tory wags a full 30 seconds to start shouting “Come on Eileen!” back across the chamber: an in-form Alec Shelbrooke or Nigel Evans would be expected to make such a quip in sub-20 seconds normally (sub-10 on a good day).
In subsequent sessions we can no doubt expect Jeremy Corbyn to brandish a letter from Roxanne “who has been shamefully forced into putting on the red light to pay her way through college”; Lola, who the Labour Leader “met in a club down in Old Soho where SHE – and I won’t let any transphobe say otherwise – told me that a lack of proper Government regulation means HER – again, I repeat, she is a woman – champagne tastes just like cherry Cola!”; and of course Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Barbara Ann who is apparently “suffering so badly from Tory cuts that they’ve got her “rockin’ and a-rollin’, rockin’ and a-reelin’, Barbara Ann” (her words not mine, Mr. Speaker)”.
Yet the Labour leader was raising a very serious point. Apparently Eileen’s school was so impoverished by Tory cuts that she had to buy “pens, pencils, glue sticks and paper out of her pocket” to give to the children. This means Eileen must have had to spend a colossal £3.65 in Tescos on stationary. Just to put it in perspective that’s almost as much as a whole Big Mac Meal, or half a cinema ticket to see a Ken Loach film.
Of course for some bizarre reason none of the children in this school had their own pens and pencils either, which is odd, because who draws all the graffiti on the school desks if no one has pens? And what do they flick bits of lead at other students with if no pencils? And how do you thwack someone if no one has rolls of paper? In fact the more one thinks about this story the more it sounds made up. At least Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Eileen was based on a real person…
But the banter didn’t stop there. Corbyn managed to get another jibe in as he attempted to hit the Government on education. Referring to manifesto commitments on school funding he snarkily remarked that “even the editor of the London Evening Standard is up in arms about this!”. Although to be fair you can see why the Labour leader would be more miffed than most about George and his six (at the time of writing) jobs. One can imagine Corbyn and Milne discussing the revelations: “Six! He’s got six jobs Seumas! Can you believe that?”. “I know Jeremy, I don’t understand how he can physically do six, I mean, you even struggle with one!”
Across the despatch box the PM was looking very trendy today, wearing a particularly nice bit of school carpet that she’d somehow fashioned into a jacket (don’t worry, Eileen’s paying for it). Behind her however Cabinet Minister Ben Gummer spent the entire time looking very concerned (although on reflection that may just be because he doesn’t have any eyebrows).
Appearance aside it was a solid performance from May, reaching a crescendo when she knocked Corbyn down on grammar schools, exclaiming: “I say to the right honorable gentleman: his shadow Home Secretary sent her child to a private school, his shadow Attorney General sent her child to a private school. He sent his child to a grammar school; he went to a grammar school himself. Typical labour take the advantage and pull up the ladder behind you!”. It’s almost like the entire Labour front bench are rich hypocrites!
The main battle over, rust-haired Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh this week reprised her role as Angus Robertson’s hype man, choosing to spend all of his questions sitting next to him while nodding furiously like a less attractive version of one of those Churchill Dogs you put in the back of your car. Edward Leigh rose to speak from the corner where he and the few remaining genuinely Conservative remnants of the Tory Party reside like relics of a better age. Siobhain McDonagh won the irony bypass of the week award when she got up to moan about London council housing shortages, asking “how can it be right that a London born working family have not a room to live?”. The Labour benches behind shook their heads and tutted, all seemingly unaware that if Labour hadn’t invited every man and his dog into Britain then maybe there’d be a few more gaffes going spare for the London born families that Ms. McDonagh apparently cares so much about.
Finally Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards rose to compare the Prime Minister triggering Article 50 to the “modern day equivalent of Lord Cardigan”. “Cardigan? Good god no!” the PM no doubt thought, “haven’t you seen my Vogue interview? I wouldn’t be seen dead in a cardigan darling!” Continuing, Mr. Edwards went on to enlighten the House that Cardigan was “the military commander responsible for the Charge of the Light Brigade, and we all know how that ended”. Yes, in eternal Glory.