Emily Thornberry dominated Damian Green at Prime Minister’s Questions with a touch so light it was but a table cloth flapping in the breeze. She kneed the disgraced First Secretary over and over again – where it really hurts him, the only place it really hurts any of them – in the ego.
Was he “happy to be held to the same standards in government that he required when he was in opposition?” This first, hard, full stroke shook the First Secretary, it landed with the weight of a Sue Gray report – and the moral force of one, too.
Yes, mistress, said Green: “All ministers should respect and obey the ministerial code.” A touching thought.
One question in, it was very clear that the essence of politics was being laid bare. All politics is hypocrisy. All politicians are hypocrites.
Thornberry, sly, always the predator, never the victim, she struck again without mercy: “the First Secretary looked rather perturbed at my line of questioning, I really am not going there.” She sort of did though, to those in the know…
Thornberry addicts would pay to be perturbed by her just like this. They’d willingly visit to be questioned by this artful torturer, who perturbs so well precisely because she is so self-assured. Unlike her junior Shadow Cabinet colleagues, she has enough security to mock herself, as she did today with a little aside about her infamous England flag incident (helpfully neutralising that retort in the process). And unlike her senior colleagues, she can make her poison taste sweet.
The first move made, it was all a twisted trick played on the old dipstick. What came? Six questions on the NHS – six hits on the First Secretary. Stooped, waving his hand up and down in a motion one can only suspect is not unfamiliar, Damian Green failed to produce. Thornberry sat down and gently cocked her head as if ready for more, ready to dispatch whichever man dared rise next.
Who better to have been drawn in the ballot than Labour’s top vice cop John Mann? Suspicious that he got a go today, surely? Mann rose, threatening to screw Green with the ultimate public humiliation. Had he been lined up to finish him off? Would it turn out to be a feinted blow?
No Mann could perform today. The Bassetlaw MP weakly asked whether government and parliament should “apologise to victims who have felt let down.” Pretty sure that’s already happened, John.
Green’s answer started well. But towards the end of his sentence, the poor man’s mind did wander: “There is a place for everyone in this house on all sides and in all parties, and indeed the house authorities themselves of making sure that this is the best possible working environment for young people to come into.” The best possible environment for young people to come into. A less than full throated performance from Damian…