Now we know what the red sky meant. This was the week Jeremy Corbyn (68, MI5 watchlist, 2 E’s at A-Level) would finally win at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Before we begin, might we just take a moment to wonder: what does it say about Britain and its government that this outrageous old fool has come so far? This is the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Question time. The eyes of the world are fixed on the ancient, near-holy place. Around the globe in TV news control rooms, in bureaucrats’ offices and Ambassadors’ residences, in palaces and parliaments, serious people with serious faces make communion with this weekly High Mass of democracy.
And who do they see beating up the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Jeremy Bernard Corbyn, the Frank Spencer of politicians, a man with the intellectual prowess of a peanut and the verbal agility of a concrete bollard. Is this weekly national disgrace behind the fall in the pound? How they must laugh at us in capital cities from Athens to Addis Ababa…
There wasn’t much strategy in it. When the sandal-wearing duffer does anything that looks better than Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the days the bombs went up it’s entirely accidental. He’ll need a lieu day in order for it to sink in.
The news agenda was teed-up for the Prime Minister: a good set of employment numbers, and a phone line u-turn that could be spun into a much-needed face-saver on welfare. The order paper was unusually favourably skewed towards the politically potty: questions from Grandpa Skinner and Little Miss Pidcock, a cross-generational turn-out from the one-toothed, bug-eyed Addams Family of the hard left. Should have been easy…
But the Labour benches jumped down that weak and wobbly throat from beginning to end. Answer after answer, the Prime Minister struggled against a wall of noise. Her backbenches were near-silent…
It went from bad to worse as Mrs May accidentally answered “yes” to a hostile question on reversing universal credit. Her pauses are so long a deaf man could learn to write a symphony; she hesitates much too much to get away with “yes”, and the word is so definite in meaning that it jars in her otherwise entirely indeterminate vocabulary.
Like an Elizabethan tragedy, a brief respite from blood and death came in the form of a funny turn by an amusing Scottish clown. Tartan buffoon Ian Blackford puffed himself up like the animal-skin airbag of a set of bagpipes, only to do the “breakfast/Brexit” thing – which is about as good as a joke gets nowadays, anywhere – and it set everyone off laughing at him. He is fast becoming the joker sent on to keep the crowd warmed up during the interval.
Snake-like Pidcock had a pop, the poison-tongued she-devil. Has there ever been anyone in British politics with a less appealing character than her? She oozes hatred, you wouldn’t put it past her to arson the WI tea tent at your village fete. Skinner, her geriatric partner-in-crime, spouted some total nonsense. Again, what must they think of us?
As for the PM, it seemed the only person helping her out was Philip Hammond. He engaged across the floor of the House during almost every answer, giving it to the Labour front bench, summoning up all the spunk of a middle-aged, vasectomised, regional accountant. But he was genuinely trying to help her. When your assassins feel sorry for you you’re worse than dead.