A new face at PMQs becomes samey after a few months. Corbo reached that point some time ago and Cameron can now contain him without breaking a sweat. He’s not threatened by the Labour leader for the simple reason that Corbyn lacks any forensic guile. To prepare, mount or press home an attack is beyond his powers so he just reads out his set questions in a low verbal moan, like next door’s Hoover.
Today they tussled over the scrapping of bursaries for trainee nurses. Cameron said this reform makes it easier to fill the wards with bustling sisters and swishing matrons. No, said Corbyn. It’s harder. Amazingly, some light was shed on this difference. It depends where they come from. Corbyn wants vacancies filled from any old place. But Cameron has unearthed a dastardly plan by low-cost economies, (Bulgaria was mentioned), to dump cheap carers on the NHS. He wants more home-made nurses created so that Britain will become self-sufficient in these angels of mercy and we won’t have to bus them in from the trans-Danube.
Cameron left it to his backbenchers to make fun of Labour’s forthcoming suicide note. Already some manifesto ideas have filtered down from the deliberations of Red Ken, Chairman Pat and General Secretary Leonid Jezhnev. The main bullet-points are: scrap Trident, abandon the Falklands, revive flying pickets and curb share dividends. When a Tory MP named McCartney joked that Labour’s defence policy should be called, ‘Yellow Submarine,’ Cameron joined in and said that Corbyn’s personal theme is ‘Back in the USSR.’
Sombre no-nonsense Angus Robertson climbed to his feet and brought with him the vast arena of world conflict. It must gall Mr Robertson that he gets far less screen-time than his subordinate, Alex Salmond, and he dabbles in global politics as a consolation. Heads of smaller parties often veer in this direction. Pantsdown succumbed. So did Ming Campbell. The foreign trips are probably good fun. And when they’re abroad their status as a ‘Westminster party leader’ must sound a lot ritzier than their home billing as a ‘sectarian rump boss.’
Angus Robertson seems to have his eye on some cushy pro-consular UN job. Today he turned his pious gaze towards the middle-east where Saudi Arabia is busy attacking Yemen. What, he asked, is Britain doing to support peace there? Cameron made it all sound perfectly easy. Installing a multi-party Shia-Sunni administration in Yemen will turn its bomb-strewn coastline into a nice sunny version of Weston-super-Mare. After this, Robertson went a bit Nuremburg 1946. ‘Thousands of civilians have been killed,’ he intoned. Saudi Arabia’s planes and bombs are all imported from the UK. And the assaults are ‘being co-ordinated by the Saudis in the presence of British military advisers.’ That sounded terrible. He then accused Cameron of committing Britain to a war without getting permission from the SNP, or from anyone else in Westminster.
Cameron took umbrage. ‘He started in a serious place but then wandered seriously off.’
The PM denied that British personnel are ‘conducting operations’. According to him they’re just offering help and advice ‘to make sure countries obey the norms of humanitarian law.’ Wow. That’s a relief. They’re in Saudi Arabia to police the Geneva Convention. Mind you, I don’t remember that particular mission being announced. Robertson is bound to take up this question again at PMQs. Next time wearing his turquoise beret.