Two centimetres of snow in Westminster provided excuse enough for Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, to arrive at the set piece event of the political week (watched by millions around the globe, the premium export of British democracy) in hiking boots. Yes, he actually wore a pair of grey, rubber soled hiking boots on the frontbench. Ugg boots and an ‘El Gato’ onesie next week? Spats? Clown shoes? Bowling sneakers? Summer’s on its way: sombrero? Why not get into the spirit of the upcoming World Cup and pitch up in full Venezuela strip? Or how about a mackintosh, trilby hat, sunglasses and a newspaper with eye-holes cut out?
Your correspondent retraced the route from Corbyn’s office on the Parliamentary Estate to the Chamber of the House of Commons. 99% of that route is inside, under cover, in halls carpeted and heated at your expense. Snow-booted Jez took around five steps exposed to the elements in the course of passing from one palatial building to another – but it’s a path, not a Himalayan pass strewn with the fallen corpses and discarded oxygen bottles of weather-beaten climbers. And unlike the glacial pavements the rest of us have to contend with (despite ever rising council tax), Parliament’s outdoor walkways are cleared of snow by a gang of lackeys (also at your expense). We wouldn’t want any of our beloved politicians to slip over, God forbid! Moreover, it is worth pointing out – not to labour the obvious – that even the most apocalyptic of snowmageddons is yet to bring that white stuff actually inside House of Commons chamber. Why? The place has a roof. As a certain former Prime Minister almost put it, put some proper shoes on, you absolute scruff-bag, the way you dress is now nothing less than a matter of national disgrace.
After wishing Mr Speaker a “good afternoon”, as if they were passing in the street, Jezza fired his opening shot:
“The Prime Minister emerged from her Cabinet away day to promise a Brexit of ambitious managed divergence… can she tell the country what on earth ambitious managed divergence means in practice?”
Which brings us straight back to the hiking boots. As the Prime Minister said in her riposte: “we want to deliver on the vote of the British people… that’s in direct contrast with the Labour Party’s position, who want to be in a customs union.” The EU customs union imposes extraordinarily high tariffs on footwear. The average customs union tariff on trainers is 17%. Although those who fear another snap election may wish to maintain a high tariff on walking boots, the increasingly snowbound British public made it clear in the high summer of 2016 that they do not want to be so burdened. As socially conscious Jezza should know, the poorest in society spend a higher proportion of their income on clothing than the richest. The boots of the British people are made for walking… away from the high tariff customs union…
The Prime Minister unfortunately did not summon Jezza’s footwear faux pas in her defence of Brexit. She did venture an unusually bold “calm down” to the revved-up Labour benches, but it lacked the Michael Winn-ing arrogance of the Cameron “calm down, dear” golden age. Luckily, as per usual, snow-booted Jezza was brought down in his own avalanche…
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