This week, Christian and Paul discuss the fallout from Nadhim Zahawi’s sacking, Labour’s Rosie Duffield problem, and more…
The two most thrilling reactions for MPs – as I understand it – are 1) a dense, party-wide Hear, Hear! which carries the speaker on the crest of approval. And 2) a sudden, still, congregational silence in the great chamber. In this version, the packed Commons holds its breath. Every listener is caught by the throat.
1) is hard, and rarer as the years have passed, but 2) is relatively easy. It is prompted by some “horrific incident” or “terrible tragedy” and strikes every person present into pious silence.
The Commons has got wise to it now, and the body count is rising with every passing PMQs. The signal that the trick is being played again is usually a name, a Christian name (Sh! Sh! the monitors go), then the fact of a child, a victim, a death.
Today, with names and details, we had a stillbirth, a death by dogs, three suicides and an air pollution fatality. Thirty-one deaths a day by breast cancer were referenced, though not by name (that’ll be next: “We shall never forget them.”).
The temptation, which the Tory Member didn’t successfully resist, is to dally in the spotlight. It’s a very fine line. One extra sentence and you look like you’re making a meal of it, fine dining in the sacred silence.
Better would be not to do it all; to find another way to demonstrate that politicians are human, that they share our concerns.
Kier Starmer is taking action against a Labour MP’s use of “disturbing language” against Israel. At PMQs today, Kim Johnson called Israel’s government “fascist”, before adding it was an “apartheid” state. Tom Harwood is now reporting that Kim has been called in to the Labour Whip’s office, where she is likely to be suspended if she can’t apologise fulsomely. This isn’t even the first time Kim has caused controversy, the far-left Corbynite previously denied her predecessor was hounded out of politics by antisemitism. At least Labour is now taking these issues seriously.
Keir has a new gimmick. He drops his voice and asks some light, innocent-sounding question in a meaningful, insinuating way, as if to tell us he’s leading his opponent into a cunning trap. He quotes from a report into a criminal atrocity and then wheedles, “Does the prime minister accept that?”
When Rishi agrees, Keir reads out another quote, more critical of the Government and wheedles a little more. “Does the prime minister accept that as well?”
Whoever advised him to do that should be sacked. As a gimmick it lacks many things but principally – impact, originality, appeal, dynamism, surprise, engagement with a modern audience. The man really needs some quality advice so here I am. I’m going for it, I’m pitching to be his PMQs adviser from now on.
One. No more voicing things, Keir. People don’t like it when you say things, so let’s just cut that right out. The speaking thing just doesn’t do it for you.
How to inspire people, then? How to take them with you? How to lift the spirit of the nation? Listen to me. Blair got rid of sentences – I want you to do without words. The modern era communicates in images. So, be visual. Pictures, visions, images – they are the universal language.
And how do we do PMQs like that? You’re going to say Erskine May forbids visual aids. Relax. What I’m going to tell you to do will drive social media crazy. You’ll change politics forever. I’m just going to say it.
It’s four words.
Puppetry of the Penis.
Hear me out.
As pressure mounts on Nadhim Zahawi, PMQs failed to live up to its billing as a defining moment for the Conservative Party Chairman. Sir Keir did make a few jibes, prodding the PM on his reluctance to probe on “family finances and tax avoidance”, before asking:
“is he starting to wonder if this job is just too big for him?”
In short, Rishi came off ok.
This week, Christian and Paul discuss Scotland’s new Gender Reform Bill, leaked Home Office documents, Suella Braverman’s fight to find a seat, and more…