PMQs kicked off with a big fuss about improvements to our world-beating education system. To academise or not to academise? Corbo wants to let good-or-outstanding schools be good-or-outstanding. Cameron says good-or-outstanding schools can become even more good-or-outstanding. Both leaders prefer to ignore Ofsted’s lower grades, ‘inadequate’, and ‘requires improvement’. Rightly so. No one else recognises these cold and impersonal classifications. The average citizen uses a system based on the sight of a uniformed teenager on the street. ‘Safe to ignore’, ‘pass with caution’, ‘armed and feral’ or ‘requires imprisonment’.
Today’s exchanges were marked by moral panic and an outbreak of high-horse fever. Cameron started it with a premeditated dig at anti-Semites in opposition circles. Labour’s deportation expert, Naz Shah, wants to pacify the middle-east by airlifting Israel and dropping it off in America. Shah has apologised for her remarks and she invites our sympathy by stating that she was ‘shocked’ by her own words. Poor woman. Someone should apologise to her. The cause of her distress needs to be rooted out and eliminated before she suffers further.
Seasoned equestrian Angus Robertson mounted the high horse and proceeded to berate the government for failing to bring in unchaperoned Syrian kids from France and Germany.
Cameron warned him not to compare minors abandoned in modern Europe with Jewish children fleeing the Nazis. This undermined Robertson’s next point but the SNP member never declines an opportunity to look like a twit so he bulldozed straight on and made an argument the prime minister had just demolished.
‘Just as in the 1930s’, he began. Robertson always debates in this inflexible manner. He’s like a washing machine from the 1950s. Once the ‘on’ switch has been pressed the noisy monster has to complete the cycle before it can stop squirting soapy bilge in all directions.
This time he was saved by show-off Bercow who interrupted him to call for silence. While standing up Bercow reminded his fans, (of whom there are dozens), that the chamber is ‘the home of free speech.’ For Bercow himself it’s also the home of free homes.
Next up on the horse was Marion Fellows who claimed that the Scottish steel industry had been pulverised by Westminster only to be rescued at the last minute by Holyrood.
Really, said Cameron. Here’s a question. How many Scottish-forged girders reinforce the new road bridge over the Forth? Answer, none. Not a bolt, not a rivet. Not a single iron filing can trace its origins to a Caledonian smithy. Meanwhile all those butch new warships on the Clyde are groaning with locally smelted bulkheads.
Ben Bradshaw took a pop at the Brexiteers and asked if Britain should listen to its overseas allies or to ‘French fascists’ and Nigel Farage. He rhymed Farage with ‘marriage’ which encouraged a bar-room response from a guffawing Cameron. ‘I’m glad he takes the English pronunciation and not the rather poncy foreign-sounding one that he [Farage] prefers’
The high horse had almost died of exhaustion when Yvette Cooper dragged it out for one last canter. She accused Cameron of ‘putting this house and this country to shame’ by refusing entry to stateless children from Europe. Strong words. But Cooper is an unimpeachable source. At the start of the crisis she urged us all to throw open our homes to fugitives from Assad’s war. Some say Cooper has conspicuously failed to obey her own advice. But I’m not so sure. To boast about one’s charitable deeds is a fault not a virtue. She’s looking after those Syrians in secret.