DPMQs Sketch: Shadow Cabinet Ladies Night

With the boss otherwise engaged, Damian Green strolled down to the country pub for a quiet pint. He found himself at the shadow cabinet’s all-women lock-in being held at a suburban All Bar One. This was Emily Thornberry’s lunchtime on the tiles; this was her at 3AM at 12 midday. Clothed from head-to-toe in lip-stick-red – a flash of gold from the earrings – Green could not hope to match the entirely unwarranted yet somehow lethal sass of this plump old lawyer as she played the common cougar. Minutes earlier Thornberry is in the Common’s ladies loo, looking at herself over and over again in the mirror (you suspect Green doesn’t ever look). She winks at herself, blows herself a kiss. Don’t you look good darling. You go give it to him; you are the hen at the party. He’s only a man…

Green would confirm Lady Nugee’s long-held views of all those unfortunate enough to have been born with a penis. Like every doddery old bloke in the history of human race, the First Secretary brought his punishment entirely upon himself. Immediately joking about women and leadership when up against Thornberry is ill-advised. He tried this one: “There are many distinguished people – of both sexes – who have done [PMQs] in this party, because we of course elect women leaders.” If there are two things Emily Thornberry is sure of – and there may only be two such things in the universe – it’s that she is a woman and that she is a leader. Instantly she parries: three Labour women had led at PMQs since Theresa May came on the scene. Don’t start with me boy, I’ll make mincemeat out of you…

The frontbench girl-dom howl. Long-Bailey, Osamor, Butler: their big socialist papa is away and Labour’s ladies have booked out the dancefloor. Not Corbyn but Thornberry, their over-painted, sainted mother, is so clearly their inspiration. A veritable Mrs Robinson; boy, can she eat a Tory man up for breakfast! Green reaches at once for the last weapon in every bloke’s armoury of argument: to suggest that a woman does not understand sport. Responding to Thornberry’s quip about the rugby, he says: “I also absolutely share her view about the British and Irish Lions, though it strikes me as a particularly British thing to do to celebrate a drawn series”. You don’t get sport! You don’t get sport!

It’s futile. In every fight between the fairer sex and the rougher – especially about Brexit – there’s a moment where the unsayable is said. Thornberry comes to the inevitable climax, the bit where she throws the wine all over his shirt: “The First Secretary clearly didn’t get the PM’s memo. You’re supposed to be building consensus, man!” The shadow front bench positively screams as Thornberry drives the stiletto still deeper. Look at her gestures mid-sass: the palm down, arm out, patting-down motion. She’s telling Green to sit down, but she’s also backing him up against the wall of the pub. Will she slap him or will she throw herself onto him? You cannot tell, and she believes that precisely this threatening half-charm is her genius. The only certainty is that she is a woman and because of that she is right…

Green – quiet, calm, logical and, most importantly, sensible – could never argue Thornberry out of her own sense of kevlar-coated self-belief. It is no reflection on him. No opponent could do so. Lady Nugee is a Labour woman. Their time is nigh…

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Quote of the Day

Andrea Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today

“He’s made his views on Brexit on the record, and the problem with that of course is that the chair’s impartiality is absolutely essential. … He’s made his views known on Brexit… it’s a matter for him but nevertheless it’s a challenge and all colleagues need to form their own view of that.”


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