By some cyber super-villainy, the parliamentary media passes were disabled today. Doors that normally opened submissively blocked and barred even the grandest of us, even the BBC. It was as though they were members of the public.
Nonetheless, we are journalists, we have our ways, we will not be denied access. Through the sewers, principally, and up through the drainpipes we swarmed the press gallery, nothing could keep us away from PMQs.
To begin with a sketch scoop – the back of Rishi’s head. Through a cleavage in that thick, pitch thatch is emerging a glimpse of scalp. We plant a flag there, to claim the territory for Guido. A patch of skull was the first sign of the pressures of office felt by David Cameron all those years ago – it is surprising, considering his circumstances, that the PM isn’t as bald as a billiard ball.
Jeremy Wright introduced his visiting 110-year-old constituent to the House and commended him to his party leader as an example of “surviving against the odds”.
Yes, thanks, mate, cheers for that, Jeremy.
Rishi had just had the ultra-loyalist John Hayes (it’s never been entirely clear to whom John is ultra-loyal) saying, “That 1.3 million migrants over a period of two years is a catastrophe for Britain is obvious to everyone apart from guilt-ridden bourgeois liberals.” He is the chair of the Tories’ Commonsense Group and it is a mark of his political ability that “everyone” agrees with what he has said, but not when he says it. He makes you search out the good points of Hamas. And Hitler, even, who had interesting ideas on opera house architecture.
Mr Commonsense asked in a commanding sort of way that the PM follow the instructions of his immigration minister “exactly”. The PM said he was grateful as always for the hon Gent’s advice – probably a more insulting response than anything James Cleverly could come up with. Rwanda was going to be designated safe by an Act of Parliament and the courts would not be able to declare the flights there illegal. Let’s see how that goes.
Sunak was making a very daring defence of his immigration record based on the importance of keeping one’s word and acting on one’s commitments and doing what one said one was going to do. A good prosecutor might have taken the PM apart bit by bit and left him naked, limbless and looking round the room for his vital organs.
Keir contented himself by saying the PM is “in lala land” and that he is “waging a one-man war on reality”.
In the event, his indolent abuse was assisted by the AV authorities in their cabin at the back because even as the PM taunted Starmer with the words, “Britain isn’t listening to him” they cut his mic off, meaning Britain wasn’t listening to either of them. Tulip Siddiq – she has the prettiest name of any MP and exemplary comic timing – quoted one of the senior cardinals in our scientific papacy who recently testified to the Covid Inquiry, “Rishi thinks, ‘Just let people die, and that’s okay.’”
Against a rising Tory hubbub she called out: “How is it that the Prime Minister is okay with people in our country dying?” Is there no end to the power of politics in the socialist world view? Their core value is “the audacity of hope”, in Barack Obama’s preposterous phrase. Conservatives are by contrast coming to the end of their struggle session in re-evaluating their politics and are starting to rally round their own core value. In this case, despair.
A testy exchange in the chamber today, as Starmer delivered one of his better gags at the dispatch box. Pointing to Cleverly to help him finish off his sentence that “everything the PM touches turns to…” The Home Secretary can be seen fiercely saying something in reply. Lip readers get in touch…
Sunak tried to take a stab at Starmer’s ‘green pledge’ to borrow £28 billion a year, concluding “Britain isn’t listening” just as his microphone was cut off. Ironic…
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…
Rishi’s delivering rehearsed lines on the cost of living at PMQs. The right words, in the wrong order…