There were two obviously planted questions at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Both were clearly designed to help the government with its very tricky forthcoming decision on Huawei helping build some of the UK’s 5G infrastructure. Both pointed towards the government taking the decision in favour of Huawei, despite American entreaties to the contrary.
The first came early doors in the session, with Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown asking:
‘The Conservative manifesto promises in relation to roll out of broadband and mobile phone signal are incredibly welcome, but would my right hon. friend agree that rural constituencies like mine, wherever they are in the United Kingdom, should not be left behind and would he agree with me that these vital technologies should be rolled out and would he set a firm timetable for their roll out?’
Then a little later, Andrew Griffith, the newly-elected Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs, asked this:
‘Investment in super-fast broadband is an excellent way of levelling up the whole of the United Kingdom, of boosting British business and of reducing carbon emissions. But could the Prime Minister reassure rural residents of West Sussex, many of whom have little or no access to broadband today, that the government scheme to guarantee minimum broadband speeds is on track and ready to launch in March of this year?’
Now, these aren’t particularly egregious examples of pointless questions. Both MPs are asking a question which does genuinely reflect the concerns of their constituents and which calls on the Prime Minister to take action. But Boris Johnson is hardly going to say ‘no’ to their pleas to take their seats seriously, and the questions were clearly designed to be helpful in making the case for focusing on the delivery of better broadband, rather than some of the foreign policy implications. But as pointless questions go, they’re probably not worth getting too worked up about.
As James says, today’s PMQs was pretty restrained and not particularly tribal. I’d be amazed if this atmosphere lasted the year, though, and there are plenty of new Conservative MPs who are keen to be promoted and aware that in a recently-swelled party, they have to really fight their way into government. And so each week I will be tracking the most sycophantic questions at this session, just to remind MPs that their cheeky pointless questions do not go unnoticed.