Finding himself behind Keir Starmer in a coffee-queue this afternoon, Guido took the opportunity to ask the Leader of the Opposition about his future attack lines on the Government. The case of Suella Braverman, the Labour leader said, “wasn’t going away.”
It was a relatively inconspicuous item in his PMQs: “Have officials raised concerns about his decision to appoint her?” It caused a frisson among those who know how important process is, and how deadly the advice given by officials can be.
Stephen Kinnock followed his leader’s lead by asking “Did he seek or receive any advice on security concerns” about Gavin Williamson’s appointment, “given that the right hon. Member was sacked in 2019 for leaking sensitive information relating to our national security?”
Obviously no PM is going to answer such questions, nor will he willingly surrender written advice given in ministerial confidence. However, there is a route to get it. By an Humble Address (a procedural device resurrected from ancient obscurity by the previous Speaker, John Bercow), documents of all sorts, including electronic, can be demanded by an Opposition Motion.
Labour has had next week’s Opposition Day nicked by the SNP. But the issue will probably fructify rather than decay over time. It may be a little early in the new administration for 35 Tories to defy the Whip and vote for the documents to be revealed – but if recent history is anything to go by …