Sometimes PMQs is about policy. Sometimes it’s about posturing. Today everyone was striking attitudes like mad.
Jeremy Corbyn over-stated the levels of suffering in the country. He painted a picture of workhouse Britain where ‘four million children’ live ‘in poverty’. He means ‘relative poverty’, an elastic term, which covers every child in the land, including those of David Cameron who are ‘poor’ relative to the children of Bill Gates.
God-squad veteran, Chris Bryant, argued that the state shouldn’t just improve our lives but our deaths as well. He took us back to a funeral he once conducted during an adolescent phase when he thought he was a vicar. ‘Everyone was in tears,’ he boasted. His policy is free burials for the poor. Terrific. Soon every citizen will get a state funeral.
And before we die we’ll be able to socialise, day and night. That’s if Seema Kennedy gets her way. She sought the prime minister’s praise for her work on ‘the Loneliness Commission.’ This alarming neologism strikes fear in the heart of anyone who values their solitude. Like it or not, we’re to be graded by Whitehall according to our tendency to engage in bus-stop banter. Armies of natterers are to be hired and put on permanent stand-by. Any citizen deemed insufficiently extrovert will be assigned a nosey-parker to chivvy them into conversation at thrice-weekly appointments. Pretending to be out will be no help because the jabbering nuisances will be under orders to yell at us through the letter-box. ‘I know you’re in there. Get the kettle on. I’ve brought Scrabble.’
Devoted crisis-chaser, Angus Robertson, spent the morning munching a good breakfast and scanning the papers for atrocities to quiver about. Aleppo popped up several times and he made a note to work himself into good old lather about it. It scarcely matters to him that the war-torn city isn’t in the same continent, let alone the same country, as his constituents. Nor is he troubled that the UK has precisely zero influence over Syria’s four-sided civil war. Aleppo is Robertson’s gateway to garrulous self-importance so he duly put on his sad face and asked Mrs May to ‘end the suffering.’
Foolishly she played his game and announced that ‘emergency discussions’ are to take place at the UN today. ‘Extremely welcome,’ said Robertson as if two hours of diplomatic waffle might catalyse a breakthrough. Then, with well-rehearsed melancholy, he announced that Aleppo is ‘descending into hell’ and he repeated his call for the PM to ‘alleviate the suffering.’
In his own mind Robertson is a tireless international peace-keeper admired around the world for his ability to bring wars to a swift end with his superb cross-examinations of British prime ministers. In fact he wears his parallel existence in the manner of a six-year-old in a Spiderman costume. The only difference is that the six-year-old eventually grows up.
‘David Lammy!’ called the Speaker. The name was greeted with such a complete and ominous silence that there were fears he might have died. But no, Lammy was on his feet, in his dark blue threads, near the back wall. His Labour colleagues had made a point of retreating along the benches to leave him isolated. What’s he done wrong? His speech was an effortful rumination on bigotry. A black female candidate has failed to make Channel 4’s board of directors, he complained. This rejection, he argued, proves that those making the appointments believe ‘there isn’t a black woman in the country worthy of being on the board of Channel 4.’ Rather perverse logic from the Harvard alumnus. Confusing ‘one black woman’ with ‘all black women’ is the essence of racial prejudice.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.