Panto Time in Parliament for PMQs mdi-fullscreen

PMQs is back, in time for the Christmas season. Everyone enjoyed the light-hearted affair. A colourfully-dressed audience punctuated the clapalong routines with cheers, counter cheers, short sharp volleys of laughter, abuse, groans, and cries of More! Boring! Apologise! 

Everyone knew where in the libretto they were, like those shows where the audience joins in with the songs and the dialogue. After the novelties and disorders of recent weeks the reassurance of the familiar was welcomed by all. 

Keir began with an old favourite. “The asylum system is broken. Who broke it?” He had a new joke in the old material: “No one wants open borders on this side of the House.” Thirty-odd Labour MPs might have chorused “Speak oh speak for yourself!” Next time, perhaps. 

Our Principal Boy, in his fluting tenor flew back at his panto partner: “You can’t attack a plan if you don’t have a plan.” He’s new to this, of course but non-sequiturs like that are too daring to live long. Keir then cued him up nicely with a recital of the Government’s Rwanda policy (it hasn’t been a complete success) and sat down. Rishi could have ad libbed, “The hon. Gent. hasn’t asked a question.” Aaaaand – sit.

That magnificent human haggis, Ian Blackford, wanted an uncertainty settled. Would the Government be uprating benefits in line with inflation and maintaining the triple lock for pensions? Rishi said, “Fairness and compassion is at the hearts asking a question of everything we do.” (Anglice: No.) 

The shouts of support and accusation flew this way and that. Did the Home Secretary defy legal advice? Why have so few asylum applications been processed? What is the Government going to do about the 50,000 boat people coming ashore this year (and the 100,000 next year?). And what about that kangaroo penis?

There was even a pointing contest. The veteran Panto Dame Barry Sheerman forgot his lines but fumbled to a punchline of the Government not helping ordinary working people. As the government has helped ordinary working people to the point of bankruptcy, he was rewarded with well earned laughter. 

The Commons favourite Widow Twanky was greeted with a great shout of welcome. “I will NOT be bullied into silence!” Chris Bryant cried, misunderstanding their gesture of concern for an attempt to push him from the spotlight. 

An elfin voice struggled through the noise, something about  NHS car parks. It didn’t chime with the holiday mood. Vicky Ford talked about a “climate-driven drought in Ethiopia”. That didn’t raise the laugh you might have expected.

The staging didn’t allow either side to scoop the awards. And neither side deserved to win, just as neither deserved to lose.

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