Jezza an Eagle, May a Pigeon

The Brexit doomsday clock is at one minute to midnight. The government is split, the backbenches volatile, the whips under pressure. Is the white paper a blank? Across the north of England, tens of thousands of people cannot get to work, school or hospital because the train network simply collapsed overnight. It emerges the Heathrow Airport expansion could be voted down. People in cities feel like they are living through a new epidemic of violent crime. The ‘hostile environment’ saw an orphan deported. Of all the topics raised at PMQs this lunchtime, Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a confident, certain – strong and stable – answer to one and one alone. She would sponsor a pigeon in a pigeon race… 

Across from her, Corbyn newly seemed a bird of prey – white plumed like a bald eagle. Quite stunningly, he swooped – finally summoning some political panache after his 69 long years – trapping the PM by repeatedly pecking at the same wound: the government’s paralysis over Brexit. First he dived in headlong over the white paper. Smarted, May had no riposte. But Corbyn – unusually – plunged again and struck once more, this time near-fatally, on precisely the same issue: will that white paper be published ahead of the crucial June summit? Then the decimation began…

May made a significant error: flailing in attack when she should have played a Boycott-esque forward defensive. She tried to turn the scrap back on Jezza by throwing a question at him: this meta-questioning (tedious exchanges about the questions themselves) is a common fall-back position for both leaders (May often gets a free hit when Corbyn forgets to ask one). Not today, as Jezza confidently retorted: the last time he checked it was Prime Minister’s Question Time. Ouch…

Jezzy The Eagle continued to maul May: he scored hits on the Irish buffer zone (boy, that one hit the buffers) and the customs union. Then, we watched agog as he flourished his talons in the final bout:

“So, my question to the prime minister is this: which will last longer, the Northern rail franchise or her premiership?”

Extraordinarily, the leader’s office had plotted an almost-witty line, a pithy quip designed not for the clips but to trip – and wrong-foot her it did. Finally, after several abortive attempts on previous Wednesdays to create today’s carnage, Jezza truly broke through on the EU. It now looks like Corbyn is flying on Brexit (when in reality he is, of course, unable to even get off the ground). This lunchtime only gave Brexiters all the more reason to worry…

Sketch Round-Up

Tip offs: 0709 284 0531

Quote of the Day

In response to Dominic Grieve’s rumoured plans to request the Government hand over private communication about prorogation to Parliament, Cummings said:

“For a supposedly adequate lawyer who loves the ECHR, Grieve doesn’t seem to realise that his request for private messages is blatantly illegal and will be rejected by the Cabinet Office. We love the rule of law in No10.”


Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.