It was the first PMQs since Mrs May crawled triumphantly back into Downing Street after her humiliating victory in the general election. She has brilliantly disposed of her cumbersome Commons majority – always a drawback to a statesman – and replaced it with a thrillingly unstable parliament and a government characterised by its ruthless indecision and single-minded hesitancy. The genius of Mrs May is to keep her gift for politics so fully concealed that it appears to be non-existent. And the historic alliance she has forged with her despised colleagues in the DUP looks set to endure for a hundred years. Or maybe days.
The high-rise crisis dominated the session. We were given an update from the PM who told us that so far the cladding on just 102 buildings has been fire-tested. Why so few? They ran out of copies of the Tory manifesto to use as kindling.
Jeremy Corbyn blamed austerity and cuts to local authority budgets. He called for more fire safety officers. More? These are the guys who gave the OK to slabs of insulation made from compacted fire-lighters, and who allowed builders to coat their tower-blocks in napalm.
Mrs May had a craftier approach. First she distanced herself from blame by emphasising that the problem had developed ‘over decades’ and ‘over many years.’ She used this formula several times. Then she dropped a bombshell.
‘The cladding of tower-blocks began under Tony Blair.’
Oh my God. Are there no depths to which that man will not stoop? First the dodgy dossier, now booby-trapped council flats. Mrs May needed to substantiate her retro-fitted blame-sprinklers and she recited a very abstruse section from a 2005 bill that no one had heard of … (I scribbled down ‘Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order’). To clear the matter up once and for all, she gave us her ice-cold head-girl voice.
‘Laws which took effect in 2006 ended routine fire authority inspections.’
All that was needed was a piece of blatant hypocrisy. Having removed her name from the charge-sheet and passed responsibility to the Labour party she called for scapegoating to end. ‘Let us come together,’ she said. Answers must be found by those of ‘all political persuasions’.
Rather an unedifying session. With an unexpected twist. Rachel Reeves made a last-minute bid for the Crazy Stat of the Day prize. She said that nine million British citizens are feeling ‘lonely’. Nine million. That’s an epidemic, surely. Ms Reeves is no doubt lobbying on behalf of militant psychiatrists who want loneliness – once deemed a blessing – reclassified as a disease so that they can peddle drugs to nine million new addicts. She claimed that loneliness can be as bad for one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. A word of advice to the lonely: have a cigarette and a chat with 14 strangers per day and you’ll start to feel better.