Rishi Has An Answer For Everything – Maybe Even For Election 2024 mdi-fullscreen

If you’re having to work harder than usual to involve yourself in the machinery of government and the administration of our great nation, you’re not alone.

In the 10 minutes before PMQs kicked off, among the many unfilled places – no prayer cards were visible. These are used to reserve seats when there’s popular pressure on places. When things are running hot, MPs are fire hazards – squashed in at the bar, behind the Speaker’s chair, squatting in the gangways, squeezing in impossibly, between hips and thighs.

Before the end of today’s session, the opposition side below the gangway had emptied by a third. MPs left before the end, voting with their rear ends.

It’s one way for oppositions to deal with a government’s success. Rishi is riding high having solved “the Rubik’s cube of the Northern Ireland Protocol” (Philip Dunne’s phrase). He’s got the bulk of the Tory party behind him, and so much so  – in David Davis’ calculation – the DUP is more likely to split than the Conservatives.

So where does Labour go? Heating bills? Keir tried, but the Government has them covered – Rishi told a Member, “We’re paying half the energy bills of households.” (He’s the heir to Macmillan as much as to Blair.)

Keir then tried living standards – that after 13 years of Tory failure, the average family in Britain will be poorer than the average family in Poland by 2030 (huh?).  And then, “We’re going to see a generation of young people learning to sayAuf wiedersehen, pet’ in Polish. Aren’t we?” Which wasn’t really what you call a joke, nor quite what we know as a question to the prime minister.*

And you can’t get that sort of thing past Rishi Sunak. He is, in fact, formidable at the despatch box. He has an answer for everything. Even questions that haven’t been asked. The Speaker got the biggest laugh of the day with: “There’s too much noise. The Prime Minister can’t hear the question. I’m sure that was about housing.” Rishi had gone off into the prime ministerial penumbra of his government’s achievements. The Speaker’s sally produced cries of More! – the only ones of the afternoon.

The Scots slightly got the better of it. They were in a bind of their own, now that Sturgeon’s gone and the appetite for independence is collapsing, and their Scottish sense of grievance has nowhere obvious to settle.

Stephen Flyn went with: “The PM said that single market access was special, exciting and attractive.” (Ahhh! Supportive ejaculations suggesting something significant had been said.) “In contrast to the leader of the opposition who said that single market access would not boost economic growth. Does it hurt the prime minister to know that the Labour party believes in Brexit more than he does?”

Rishi’s sorrowful tone, regretting that the Good Friday Agreement was being treated lightly, was particularly skilful, bearing in mind that it’s very hard to sound more sombre than Stephen Flynn.

Keir had felt on good ground last week, assuring the PM his Northern Ireland proposals were safe in Labour hands. They would breeze through with their support. But now, they’re going to breeze through anyway. Rishi Sunak has achieved something and as a consequence, something remarkable is happening.

And that something is nothing. Politics is suddenly in standing water. The tide that was running one way is now just sitting there, brimming. Sunak has pulled something off. He has done something. That was very unexpected. If he does something else – with small boats, say – how will Labour’s somnolent confidence survive?

Think the unthinkable. Those with a spare £100 might want a flutter on a Conservative – I won’t say conservative – government after the next election.

  • It’s “Źegnaj zwierzaku,” obviously.
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