Jezza started PMQs with a bit of a wobble. As he got to his feet the applause from his Labour ‘friends’ sounded like the hoarse whooshings of a punctured beach ball. Corbyn nervously offered his sympathy to the Paris terror victims and expressed concern that the slaughter of 129 innocents might increase Islamophobia in Britain. The attacks, he said, ‘have nothing in common with the 2 million Muslims who live here.’ David Cameron agreed, partially. He drew a distinction between ‘the religion of peace’ (which is Islam, in case you were getting confused) and the ‘bile spouted’ by terrorist killers. But, he said, ‘it’s not good enough to say there’s no connection. They [terrorists] make the connection.’
Our job, he suggested, is to unpick this ideological misconception in learned debate. He hailed ‘Islamic scholars’ for the labours they’ve devoted to this important area of the conflict. Which sounded plain weird. Does he think we’ll defeat Islamic State by bombarding Raqqa with cogently argued theological disquisitions and peer-reviewed journals exposing their false assumptions about Mohammedan eschatology?
Corbs then moved to the phone-in part of his performance. Today’s caller was ‘John, a tax-payer’ who complained of widespread disillusionment among the police. He reported that ‘one in three officers’ is on the brink of resignation. I wonder, is John a beat-cop by any chance?
Public servants love these tales of ‘low morale’ and ‘mass defections’ which they can use as ransom notes in their quest to get more cash and cushier holidays from Whitehall. It’s a kind of soft terrorism. The same ploy was tried by a constituent of Tulip Siddiq who wanted to scare the PM into submitting to the health-care unions. This expert witness had quit the army to train in the NHS but had found that hospital morale was lower than on the front line. The complaint went further. Health workers would soon begin to injure the sick. ‘Lower morale is a threat to patient safety,’ was the words of the ultimatum quoted by Ms Siddiq. Simple enough in kidnap-speak: cough up or the hostages get it.
Angus Robertson fretted that the UK might end up bombing Syria without a hand-written chit from Ban Ki-moon. Cameron had already said that Putin is bound to veto a UN resolution on Syria but Robertson wasn’t cowed. He had a secret weapon. An opinion poll. This entirely impartial document reported a hefty majority in favour of UN-led action but only marginal support for an ‘independent’ UK strike. Robertson didn’t say which sample-group had been canvassed. Probably the UN car-pool.
Cameron was conspicuously easy on Corbs today. He took a few swipes at ‘confusion’ in the Labour ranks but he didn’t attack Corbyn directly for appearing to suggest that an Islamist spraying gunfire in the street might get a spot-fine rather than a lethal bullet.
This cuddly attitude will continue. The PM is a founder member of the ‘Keep Corbs For Keeps’ campaign. He’s starting to look like Jezza’s best friend in the House. And vice versa, of course.