I blame Bercow. The Speaker has introduced a strange new custom to the Commons. He likes to point out his guests in the public gallery and to encourage MPs to join him in saluting them. Now everyone’s at it. Before today’s session Jeremy Corbyn had bagged himself an imam from a north London mosque and installed him in the upstairs pews. He duly greeted the cleric as ‘my friend’ and got his name right at the second attempt.
Today the NHS was on Mr Corbyn’s mind. Mrs May’s austerity U-turn, and her transformation into Lady Bountiful, has converted Mr Corbyn into a raving Thatcherite. He fumed about new NHS funding. ‘Which taxes are going up?’ he demanded. ‘And for who?’. Under a government led by him the answers to those questions would be, ‘all of them’ and ‘for everyone.’
Ronnie Cowan asked an urgent question about medicinal cannabis and Mrs May gave a ploddingly earnest reply. She spoke of efficacy, patient safety, and rigorous testing. What she meant was, delay, delay and delay. She then announced ‘a two-part review’, guaranteeing further delay – and extra agony for patients – before any drugs are administered. Even then she hadn’t finished. She revealed that a third synod of tax-gobbling bigwigs is to be empanelled by the Home Secretary to look at prescription policy. The policy of Mrs May couldn’t be clearer. Keep the sick away from their treatment for as long as possible.
Antoinette Sandbach raised the scourge of ‘rural isolation’ which is the responsibility of the ministry for Sport and Civil Society. However, as an egoistical townie, Ms Sandbach’s question made me think only of myself, and my urban isolation. She then referred to a ‘£20m fund to combat loneliness’. At which point I was consumed with jealousy and greed. Free cash for billy-no-mates! If only I could get my hands on a teeny bit of that 20 million quid I might ask a few friends over, not that I’ve got any really.
Martin Vickers then stood up and invited the house to help him celebrate his latest social successes. He introduced not one but two chums in the public gallery. ‘Calum & Oliver,’ he said, as if they were a boyband. One of the pair, a local councillor aged 18, is already an enthusiastic despoiler of public funds. ‘An example of how Tory policies help the young to prosper,’ beamed Mr Vickers. He might have chosen a better specimen of youthful prosperity than a trainee alderman who is likely to spend the next half-century leeching off the tax-payer.
But I’m probably sounding bitter. That’s because I am bitter. Deeply bitter. The sight of Mr Vickers and his fellow MPs parading their gift for friendship on television has made me feel thoroughly depressed and miserable. But am I alone? Are there others who feel this way? I’d like to know but I don’t feel strong enough to contact my fellow-citizens without an NHS sociability guru to guide me through the friendship process. I haven’t felt this bad for ages. I must stop thinking about it.
Update: I just called the minister for loneliness, Tracey Crouch, and was told that she wasn’t able to come to the phone. ‘That, surely, is a disciplinary matt-’ I began, but I’d already been cut off.