The Northern Ireland Conundrum rivals the Schleswig Holstein Question in its unrewarding complexity so we shan’t be going far into it. Just the length of an Irish sausage, perhaps.
Northern Ireland questions preceded PMQs (and the afternoon’s debate on it).
The miasmatic minister Heaton-Harris is well-adapted to his brief – it’s impossible to disagree with him, it being a mental and spiritual impossibility to follow what he says. The man defies concentration. He repels attention. Enormous administrative ingenuity has been applied to his Windsor Framework, scattering its salient points promiscuously through codicils, addenda, memoranda and supporting documents. No one human brain can encompass it.
Steve Baker is the under-minister, late of the Irreconciliable Research Group, and he seems to endorse the new Windsor deal. It was acceptable even to “unrelenting figures such as myself,” he declared.
According to the Commons, it was about sausages. That Yorkshire sausages made to British standards could be sold in Northern Ireland but that Northern Ireland sausages sold in Yorkshire had to be manufactured to EU standards.
If that’s enough to make everybody shut up about it, it seems a small price to pay.
The warm-up to the day’s dizzy events concluded, we went into PMQs on a wave of relief that LOTO led on the “misogynistic, racist, homophobic” Metropolitan police force. Everyone understands racism, misogyny and homophobia: there was something for everyone.
LOTO enjoyed himself so much he allowed himself to get excited. His voice rose. It lifted from its hurdy-gurdy drone to a different sort of noise altogether. I last heard that sound when my mother sat on a squeaky toy in the 1950s (it was the noise the toy made, not my mother).
He cited the “rape kits in broken fridges”. Rishi came back with the College of Policing updating its Statutory Code of Practice. Presumably the Rape Review Action Plan, would remove police officers’ seigneurial rights of sexually assaulting members of the public. I say presumably, but that’s based on innocent optimism – an unreliable instinct in these matters.
LOTO found the 1.6% charge rate for rapists to be too low, and he demanded a rape unit in every force. Imagine the surge in rapes that would produce! The PM reassured the House that “all police forces were in the process of checking their officers against the Police National Database” in order to see which of their employees were criminals. It’s the kind of Sherlock Holmes process that marks our forces out as the best in the world at “keeping us safe”.
When Keir declared that “the country is fed up to the back teeth with – ” he raised a great shout of “YOU!” from the Tories followed by counter shouts of No! You! You! From Labour. How everyone enjoys dissecting our racist, misogynistic, homophobic police forces.
Rishi prompted his biggest jeering cheer of support by telling LOTO he really ought to take his criticisms to the person responsible for overseeing the racism and misogyny etc of the Met: the Mayor of London. As he said, “The Labour Mayor of London.”
We concluded with a short diversion into the Partygate report which, LOTO said, “found him guilty of breaking the law” (disputed). Rishi observed mildly “He’s probably spoke to the author of that report more recently than I have.” That got him the biggest shout of the afternoon. Backbench support for Rishi may be theatrical but it’s no less real for that.
PS: Is it possible that Sue Gray has always been a Labour sympathiser? It’s not something that suddenly comes on you in later life.
Come to that, is this the first time she has been offered a job in LOTO’s office? The next time someone is talking to Ed Miliband, could they ask him, “Did you approach Sue Gray with a view to her working for you, in the event you won the 2015 election?”
Is the rumour true? It’s true there’s a rumour.