The deputies faced each other. Angela of Ashton-Under-Lyne was going to have deputy Dominic for a late brunch. All of us wanted to watch. How politics degrades us.
She started responsibly, like a greedy eater longing for dessert but having to get through three soup and savoury courses first. Solidarity with Ukraine, we had to have. Serious face emoji. Multinationals and tax havens. Every pound in a tax haven, she claimed, was a pound lost to the British tax payer. This idea of 100% taxation may be why these people shelter their revenues. It’s not unreasonable. But there was no time to unpick that, we were onto our place in the world economy. She made the same claim as Rachel Reeves made yesterday (we were bottom) and she received the same response (we have record employment).
And then, at last, we were into the sugar rush sequence of sticky toffee Spotted Dick in a bed of jam, cream and custard trifle. “After days of dodging and denial, he finally acknowledged complaints about his conduct.” But, she went on, incredulously, there was no hint of admission of guilt, or even an apology. “This is Anti-bullying Week. Will he apologise?”
Would he apologise for being accused of bullying? That wasn’t very British. There was something oriental about it. By 2050 we may be more adapted to the Chinese way of doing things.
“Let me get this straight. He has demanded an investigation into himself because the prime minister is too weak to get a grip.” And then she listed the sins of which Raab was obviously guilty. He was abrasive. He was controlling. He had demeaned the contribution of his office. Junior staff were too scared even to enter his office.
“So, what’s he still doing here?” The “what” sounded like “wot”. It carried the sense of a brawl starting in a parking lot behind the pub after closing time.
These were her charges, constructed to a standard of evidence that wouldn’t be out of place in 17th century Salem. They were delivered forcefully, repeatedly, unfairly, enjoyably. She was going to bully him out of office if she could. And if she couldn’t, she demanded an independent Ethics Adviser to do the job for her. She left him still standing.
An SNP matron noted that Rishi Sunak had been asked six times – six times! – to apologise for “crashing the economy” or some such. This may have been a reference to that Sky reporter who shouts outside No.10 “Are you going to apologise, Minister?”
This apology-mania has got out of hand. Men and women who demand apologies sound like 1950s primary school teachers. “I want you to say you’re sorry, Dominic – and mean it!”
The infantilisation of our discourse isn’t complete but we are getting there.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Ghost of Conservatism, Le Grand Horizontal, became vertical. He began speaking in that voice he has.
“It is snobbish to comment on a person’s accent,” Auberon Waugh once said of a ‘Cor Blimey’ News of the World editor, “but to ignore Derek Jameson’s accent would be to ignore a man at a party in a false nose.” With JRM, at least we can hear what he says, he speaks without notes and whatever the manner, the matter is pretty good. He noted that Labour were skilled practitioners in the arts of bullying, and had produced many resignations, suspensions and excommunications. Guido refers attention to the ancestral Labour Whips motto: “I will make you want to be dead.”
It was ever thus. Those who believe in equality live in the biggest house they can afford. They who believe in brotherhood act like Cain towards Abel. Those who champion liberty believe in the freedom of people to do what the Government wants them to do.
Believing in the godlike powers of the state, Tory Edward Leigh asked for Government to remove all pull factors drawing migrants to Britain. That would surely be to introduce ID cards, abolish benefits, unleash racism, start a civil war and make us all speak French. Only one of those measures did he propose.
Finally, Esther Mcvey, one of the angels of the Tories’ better nature made a finely-tuned point in her feminine bass: “If the Government have got enough money to proceed with HS2 at any cost, then it has sufficient money not to increase taxes. If, however, it has so little money it has to increase taxes, then it doesn’t have sufficient money for HS2.”
Her logic was impeccable. If only we lived in a rational world.