There was an air of pageantry for Mrs May’s final PMQs. From both sides of the chamber came effusive praise for her premiership, not the least gushing forth from the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. When the time came for her to leave, there was a standing ovation from all corners. Pageboys laid a carpet of petals for her to walk on. Her Majesty lent the choir of St George’s Chapel to provide a choral serenade as Mrs May exited.
Later on, she made her way to the Palace to nominate her successor, despite Her Majesty’s pleading for her to say on for at least a decade longer. But it was not to be. As a concession, Her Majesty allowed Mrs. May to return to Downing Street for the last time in the Imperial Sate Coach. A helicopter of the Queen’s Flight took the now ex-PM from the Rose Garden to the lavish estate bestowed on her by a grateful nation.
Well, almost. Well, actually not at all.
It’s not really the ‘Questions to the Prime Minister’ that are all that important, so much as the ‘Answers from the Prime Minister’. MPs on either benches can come up with any old rubbish. Only the PM’s fumbles, slips, or surprise admissions will make the bulletins. Or would have. This is Theresa May’s penultimate Wednesday session. The government she formed has a little over a week of life, and has stopped making news. It might be liberating for her instead. She could say anything she wants to her interrogators. An-y-thing. We are at the fin du regime. Power and patronage are slipping away from No. 10, even while there has been one trillion pounds of spending promises and a The Thick of It -style government department announced. But still Mrs May has her tabbed folder from which to refer.
It’s so unfair. She has to mug up all morning on current issues across Whitehall,, as well as memorise the hopefully witty and savage put-down for the final answer to the Leader of the Opposition. All Corbyn has to do is to be able to read out aloud what has been written for him. A grammar-school-educated 13-year-old could do that. Corbyn is not too interested in the actual responses. His over-long polemical questions will be chopped and shaped like a Bird’s Eye chicken burgers and fed to his supporters using the microchips of their internet devices. This multitude already believe JC walks on water. They do not witness Corbyn’s regular crucifixions at the Despatch Box.
There were mentions of England’s Cricket World Cup victory, plus also Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking sixth successive victory at Silverstone. The reader might be forgiven for thinking that cricketing analogies might be exclusively appropriate for this session. After all, the PM is at the crease while the questions are bowled at her. Opposition MPs use ‘sledging’ tactic to disrupt her concentration.
Not so. John Gummer, or Lord Beefburger as older readers will know him, has described, in his capacity as one of the overnumerous High Priests of Global Warming, the government’s response to climate change as run ‘like a Dad’s Army’. And it was this quote that Jeremy Corbyn used as the basis for his questions. He could gone in like Hodges the Warden, or Yeatman the Verger. But no. He was Private Frazer. ???We’re doomed???, he was saying to the chamber, but not in a Scottish accent. It would be bad form to steal the SNP’s thunder in this way.
Mrs May refused to assume the role of Capt. Mainwaring. She also refused to make her answers just about the environment. In addition to batting off the question, she hit back with questions of her own. It wasn’t cricket after all. It had become tennis.
If politics was a sport with the aim of getting the lowest score possible, Jeremy Corbyn would be Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohammad Ali all rolled into one. Much as Ronaldo’s goal tally continues to increase irresistibly year after year, so Corbyn’s ability to unfailingly miss the target at PMQs relentlessly improves week after week. Meanwhile May has achieved a Messi-like mastery of repeating the same tricks so often that her opponents can’t even remember how to stop them and simply glaze over instead. Between the two of them, they have managed to achieve a feat surpassing even the level of Messi and Ronaldo. They have managed to make PMQs the least relevant event of the political week…
Theresa May knew she was in for a tough bout when howls of laughter greeted her stock response to the opening question: “This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others…” She had survived the warm-up rounds with her ministers for now, but could she withstand a gruelling slugfest with the MPs? It must have been serious as Jeremy Corbyn had improbably decided to go in on the issue of the day…
Theresa nervously twitched the curtains. Would it be trick or treat for her today? Kids these days were getting awfully greedy, although Phil had given her a large stash of sweets earlier this week. Hopefully that would be enough to keep them happy. There came a knock at the door. She cautiously opened it up. It was Mark from the Forest of Dean. Nice Mark just wanted to tell her how delicious Phil’s sweets were. She agreed, they certainly were! Hopefully everyone else will be just as polite, she thought…
Jeremy was in a bad mood. He hadn’t had enough sleep, and Seumas had forced him to spend all morning reading something about Derby Council. Worst of all, it was Theresa’s turn to choose the book this week. She had probably picked some boring self-help book about leadership. He really just wanted to read through the latest copy of Allotment Gardeners Monthly and yet he was forced to turn up and pretend to be interested in other people’s books every week.