Sketch: Fiddling At Forensics, The Fumbler Flopped mdi-fullscreen

A friend of mine who knew LOTO in his salad days as a barrister said this of him: “He was known to appeal more to the judge than the jury.”

You wince, because you recognise one of those feline, metropolitan compliments such as, “He’s a very good constituency MP” meaning, “The poor fellow is a waste of parliamentary space.”

Keir has carried his legal style over into politics but it isn’t working as he assumed it would.  In the court of public opinion, the jury is the judge – and we jurors have all the objective acumen of an alcoholic hen party. LOTO has no judge to appeal to, and the jury laughs at fat women falling over and showing their knickers.

It’s a mismatch, you see.

Thus, in his forensic manner, LOTO , wheedling, asked if the prime minister knew how many mortgage payers were paying higher rates since last autumn. Something of a niche point, you think? Rishi shot back that 90% of first-time buyers don’t pay any stamp duty at all.

For the high court of Parliament, that was a perfectly good answer. It’s very hard to win these arguments on points of fact. Michael Howard – a greater forensic talent than LOTO by several orders of magnitude failed to convict – or even really to prosecute – Tony Blair.

No stamp duty whatsoever. There is no judge to say, “The witness will answer,” so Keir came up with his own figure: it was 850,000. There are, apparently, “nearly a million” people paying more for – hang on. Nearly a million? How many mortgage holders are there? The internet says there are 9 million of us. Is it really just under 10 per cent who are paying more?

Ah, but he had something in reserve. Slyly, he asked if the PM knew how many more will be paying extra by the end of this year?

Rishi, crushingly, said that inflationary expectations were at a 15-year low.

LOTO said the actual answer was “Another 930,000.”

Twenty per cent? Was that significant? Possibly. Maybe he was doing better than expected. Maybe this forensic approach had something to recommend it? Absolutely not.

“The average deposit for a first-time buyer is going up,” his voice slid away into mortified dejection, “to nine thousand pounds.”

Can you really buy a property with a deposit of £9,000? Seriously? There are 10-year-olds with that amount. It was Keir’s Dr Evil moment, when that fat, bald, super-villain came back from the 1960s to demand a global nuclear ransom of one million pounds.

“Does he know how long it would take the average saver to put that sort of money aside?”

How long! How long! One or two bench monkeys chanted. The PM answered a different question. He said that there were twice the number of first-time buyers than Labour had ever managed. Four years! LOTO said.

Really? Seriously? Four years? To come up with £9,000? They must be alcoholics who can’t give up drinking. They must be Labour voters.

Keir made one last attempt before giving up the ghost: “To put it in terms the prime minister will understand, roughly the annual bill to heat his swimming pool.” He then went off into a sequence of political pain-feeling. “Mum and dad paying £4,000 more for their mortgage. Their eldest paying more in rent. The youngest stuck in the spare room saving £9,000 deposit. And the PM coming along and merrily telling them – ’ It’s too painful to go on.

His rhetorical climax concluded with, “They’re going to need a bigger note.”

Taking back bearings, he was conflating Liam Byrne’s note left in the Treasury (“There’s no more money”) with a rhyming reference to a line from the film Jaws.

But what use would a bigger note be? What has it to do with killing sharks? Wouldn’t any judge ask LOTO if he’d care to have that struck from the record? Poor Keir’s conviction rate is lower than rape.


Covid aside, the level of parliamentary attendance is making – or breaking – records. The front benches facing each other across the despatch boxes can fit, in the absence of Kit Malthouse, 17 people. The Tories had 16 in place; Labour had 12. There were actual gaps. Your sketch writer has never seen that, in PMQs before.

On the furthest back bench below the gangway, shared by Labour and the Lib Dems, there were just two pairs of parliamentary buttocks. On the benches in front of them, six and four respectively.

The decline of Parliament is accelerating.

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