PMQs Sketch: Back to School Edition

Someone even urinated on my office door“: the inaugural Prime Minister’s Questions of the new political age began on Sheryll Murray’s piss-stained Cornwall doorstep. And for the next 50 minutes, that is where it remained. A Maybot humbled, Jez a Prime Minister-in-waiting, the nation stirred to anger in the shadow of a looming tower: none of it was enough to lift up our once great Prime Minister’s Question Time from the cesspit of mediocrity it has become. Honourables and Right Honourables could not rescue parliamentary prime-time from the sewer. They delight too much to swim in it…

If he had managed to get any good A-levels, a man of Jeremy Corbyn’s intellectual stature could by now be an Emeritus Professor of Public Safety at a polytechnic university. Today he aped grey-haired Station Officer Steele from TV’s Fireman Sam. They’ve a lot in common: both elderly jokers better not deployed on the front line, the harder-working lower ranks desperate for the day they slip just a little too fast down the greasy pole. Jez hosed the House with technical details, details which could not be squeezed through the nozzle of Commons procedure into actual questions. It was all so much of the same: the long prefaces, the misplaced emphases, the plateau phase never quite arriving at climax. Finally, it came: “I think I can help the Prime Minister with this issue” – but Jez, aren’t you the Prime Minister? – “what the tragedy of Grenfell tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity!

Scrap-the-pay-cap-badge-toting Labour MPs roared, the faces of their new joiners convulsed with glee. Tom Watson was a nodding Churchill-the-dog on the frontbench, Jez celebrated what seemed to him a hammer-blow with a little touch of his white-rimmed glasses. “Shame” they all cried at the Tories. The arguments predictable, the delivery classic Corbyn.

Nothing has changed, nothing has changed: Tired Theresa summoned inner strength from her mantra and was ready. With that customary pause to gather the headmistress tone, the PM warbled: “The cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government“. A masterstroke: Blair is our national consciousness a universal avatar for death. And Corbyn would be the first to agree! It gave him no room for manoeuvre, it was a brief glimmer of decent knockabout stuff, but, as ever, all the leader of the opposition’s replies had been used up on introductory material. And just as things threatened to get interesting, right on cue, can you guess who jumped up? Jumped-up Speaker Bercow! Sure enough, he remains parliament’s midget fun sponge. At the first sign of a rally developing between the main parties, like a tight-shorted ball boy, Bercow dived on court to bring play to a halt. “Get a grip of yourself, man!”, as he would say…

Did you remember that the SNP now has a new Westminster leader? The nation met him today; his name is Ian Blackford. All you need to know about Ian is that he’s not going to trouble Theresa May like the wily Angus Robertson used to, so now even that mild Wednesday diversion has gone down the drain. The remaining minutes seemed as interminable as they did familiar. A smattering of new MPs enjoyed the moment they have dreamed of since they were seven years-old; the most notable was Aldershot’s Leo Docherty, who, quite inexplicably, greeted the Prime Minister with a wink. Philip Davies angered the commentariat by shooting straight on foreign aid. There were some minor interventions on Brexit. Labour planted some further backbench questions on austerity.

The economic debate is just beginning, but this is already the austerity parliament: talent slashed, a deficit of star performers, savage cuts to wit. Like the national debt, the length of PMQs is increasing at an alarming rate. Cut it back, and cut it back quick…




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Quote of the Day

Sky’s Faisal Islam on the mood in Parliament at the moment:

“It’s a totally febrile atmosphere here. It’s kind of like Game of Thrones meets House of Cards – and if you chuck in the Labour Party – Laurel and Hardy too.”

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