Alex Cunningham, MP for James Cleverly’s favourite constituency of Stockton North, has tried to get topical question selected at Home Office questions this afternoon to bring up last week’s s**ithole controversy again. Failing that, Cunningham got up at the end of the session to deliver a point of order – only to get shot down by Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing. No doubt he’ll keep trying…
UPDATE: Cleverly has returned to the chamber to apologise for using unparliamentary language in front of Cunningham, who wasn’t having it. Laing has shut down further comment.
Tories have a special relationship with this time of year. The lazy days of summer are gone, the temperatures are beginning to bite, it’s back to work, time for tweeds, the season of country sports and the thrill of the hunt.
Was there any thrill in the Hunt we saw just now? Proper Tories will have their own reactions but for Gallery Guido the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was crushingly autumnal. Even as he spoke, you felt the nights drawing in and a rush towards the longest night.
He announced this and that, and at each announcement one felt a little life draining away. The small business multiplier is to be frozen for another year. Class 4 National Insurance contributions are being reduced by a full percentage point.
And these details are in his power, he can affect them with his signature. Other proposals are entirely fanciful. He is going to reduce access times to the national grid by 90 per cent. Where it takes 15 years to get your wind farm connected to the grid it’s now going to take just over a year. It takes a year to get the department to answer its phone. The best of British luck with that essential little ingredient for Net Zero.
The Chancellor is also going to increase public sector productivity by 0.5% a year.
He is attempting to penetrate one of the great administrative mysteries of modern times. The NHS was recently the beneficiary of Britain’s largest fiscal settlements – a £50bn Workforce Plan. Post-pandemic they now have 10% more nurses and 15% more consultants – and yet hospital activity has fallen. And no one knows why. NHS England even refuses to admit the mystery exists. Does the Chancellor know what he’s up against?
The only reliable way he could do that is by firing 30,000 public sector workers a year which – in modern parlance – is an act of genocide.
The Chancellor finished by telling us that his new approach amounted to the biggest package of tax cuts since the 1980s. This may be so, but the achievement isn’t so remarkable when you’ve presided over the highest taxing parliament in history.
To be fair, they probably had to, to make a dent in the £300bn bill incurred by paying the nation to take a year off work – but that’s not something Labour or the Tories can ever say in public.
The PM sat behind his Chancellor with a lively face, smiling cleverly as if we should understand that the announcements were largely his idea. Odd that the puppeteer should be smaller than the puppet.
The deeply autumnal sense increased with the shadow chancellor’s reaction. We all know Rachel Reeves. Suffice it to say, she is as God made her.
If it’s springtime for Labour it’s getting very wintry for Britain.
In the preceding PMQs, MPs made efficient use of the recent media-friendly supply of dead children. The ones without political significance were used to demonstrate MPs’ human qualities. The ones in Gaza became blood donors for Stephen Flynn. He dabbled his hands in their wounds, took a draught of their suffering to lubricate his Caledonian keening. He said that a five-day ceasefire was merely a stopgap and he, the PM, was endorsing “a return to the killing of children” whereas he, Stephen Flynn, wanted “an end to the killing of children“. This miracle would be effected by taking power from the actually genocidal Hamas and given to the actually genocidal Palestinian Authority.
Yes, winter is definitely on the way.
Lord Cameron has kicked off his maiden speech with jokes aplenty as he speaks in the Lords for the second reading of the CPTPP Bill. The “infamous” shepherd’s hut got an early mention from Cameron. Thus killing the joke forever…
Cameron said he wasn’t waiting to come back to politics like a “latter-day De Gaulle… asked to take back control“, or a “Cincinnatus hovering above the crowd” and that he leaves “all classical allusions, and illusions for that matter, to another former prime minister“. It took a while to warm the crowd up, though they got there in the end…
Rishi took his time thinking of David Cameron’s greatest foreign policy achievement. Eventually he came up with Cameron hosting “the most successful G8 summit of recent times“. To be fair, pickings were slim…
Matt Hancock has just finished giving a personal statement to the Commons, apologising for “inadvertently” committing a “minor breach” of the Members’ Code of Conduct. In a short contribution, he said:
“The Committee on Standards found that I did not seek to break the rules, had no prospect of personal gain and acted without malice. However they recommended that I apologised to the House and the Commissioner for this minor breach… I am happy to do so.”
Today’s Energy Questions in the commons saw a comical exchange between two former party leaders. Ed Miliband welcomed Boris Johnson’s contribution, in which he targeted Labour’s “Baleful, Luddite, Atomkraft? Nein, Danke” attitude towards nuclear energy, by saying:
“It’s important to welcome ex-party leaders to their place Mr Speaker. My only piece of advice is it’s important to not want your old job back.”
Boris responded by shouting something inaudible from the back benches. Lip readers, get in touch…