Amazing scenes on the floor of the Commons. Opposition Members characterised the new prime minister in unprecedented terms. Alan Whitehead started it, and his leader Keir followed up telling us that a South Asian prime minister “showed that all races could fulfill their dreams in this country … something that makes us so proud to be British.” Guido’s geiger counter was passed over these remarks and registered no sarcasm, underlying loathing, subcutaneous contempt. Was this sort of language allowed? Was it parliamentary? The Speaker didn’t intervene. If you were waiting for one of those jibes Labour MPs had been making (“our white-adjacent PM”) you’d be disappointed.
Ian Blackford, the Old Testament leader of the Scots Nats showed himself capable of a New Testament approach. The softer, gentler Nationalist noted the “significance and symbolism” of Rishi’s achievement. It was only for a moment – the spirit of Isaiah seized him as he denounced the “sleazy back room deal” that had reinstated Suella Braverman in the Home Office (she had backed Rishi at a crucial moment last Sunday, demolishing the Boris Restoration).
Rishi was hopping and bopping around the despatch box by then. The crowd was with him, everyone was enjoying themselves, Opposition MPs landed enough blows to score points, future lines of attack were laid out (non doms, the garden video, the process points of Suella’s reappointment), even Richard Burgon came out with a memorable line: A nurse would have to work 20,000 years to be as wealthy as the PM. Although looking at it now, Burgon has ignored the effects of compound interest, the Left always does.
As for the Prime Minister’s mortal enemies, they found themselves drowned out by their bellowing backbench colleagues. They found their voice, belting out volley after volley of support. Each smart response to Keir, each Tory achievement real or imaginary produced a roar of approval. Or possibly of relief. He hit that special spot seven or eight times. When Stephen Kinnock pointed out that Suella wasn’t alone, that another of his appointees had been accused of breaching national security, Rishi’s response began “That was four years ago!” It was like the exchange in The Jew of Malta: “Thou hast committed fornication … But that was in another country. And besides, the wench is dead.” He got his roar, or perhaps it was a roar from Labour, it wasn’t quite clear.
Come to that, the bellowing while obvious had no obvious source. When you looked at individual faces, there were fewer bellowers than you might have thought, from the noise that was being made. There were, when you looked, quite a number of settled faces, quite a few crossed arms.
By the sound of it, Rishi was in safe haven. By the look of it, the familiar Tory story continues…