How seldom Prime Minister’s Questions provides a surprise or genuine disclosure. This is not entirely the PM’s fault. Most of the questions put to her by the backbenches are just so trundlesome.
The Commons gathered yesterday within an hour or so of the latest growth figures, with their unexpected improvement.
Might this not have been the cue for a Conservative MP to bawl: ‘How dare our economy be doing so well? Will the Prime Minister please sack at least half the country’s shroud-waving economics professors who have been forecasting gloom?’
‘Trundlesome’: How seldom Prime Minister’s Questions (pictured) provides a surprise or genuine disclosure, writes QUENTIN LETTS
Someone could have asked Mrs May what that Selmayr bloke is like (Herr Selmayr is a Brussels aide suspected of making beastly off-the-record comments about our Theresa to the German Press). Or a Labour MP could have adopted a tone of sweet concern and asked the PM if she was getting enough sleep?
When did she and Philip Hammond last watch the football together? Has she met Melania Trump’s alleged double? Can she identify a single Brexiteer among the bishops of the Church of England? How many whiskies does she drink at night – and will she please double whatever the number is?
If put with sufficient brevity, such questions can produce illuminating answers. None yesterday came close to that.
The Commons gathered yesterday (pictured) within an hour or so of the latest growth figures, with their unexpected improvement
First up was Afzal Khan (Lab, Manchester Gorton), a newish member with none of the acidity of his late predecessor, Dame Gerald Kaufman. He wanted the Government to ‘invest £8 billion in social care’. The moment that dull verb ‘invest’ was past Mr Khan’s lips, I lost interest.
Kevin Foster (Con, Torbay) droned on about ‘the vital role that supported housing plays for many vulnerable people’. Another dead phrase. What did he mean by ‘vulnerable’: The decrepit, mad, crippled, half-witted? Come on, Foster. Use the sort of language that is spoken in streets and supermarkets. Jack the jargon.
Jeremy Corbyn talked about universal credit. He flopped. Mrs May sounded composed and adult.
‘The Government are weak, incompetent and divided,’ said Mr Corbyn, reading the words off a text. If he has to read his fury off a script, how genuine is it?
When did she (pictured) and Philip Hammond last watch the football together? Has she met Melania Trump’s alleged double? Can she identify a single Brexiteer among the bishops of the Church of England? How many whiskies does she drink at night?
A rare moment of difference arrived when Sheryll Murray (Con, SE Cornwall) asked about locator beacons of fishing boats. Mrs Murray’s husband died at sea. But then we were back to the mundane with Ian Blackford, who speaks for the Scots Nats. The moment he rose, the House groaned. He was two sentences into his second question (about migration) when a Labour heckler said: ‘Too long!’
Simon Hoare (Con, N Dorset), less sparkling than he thinks, asked a greaser’s question about Brexit. Jo Platt (Lab, Leigh) mumbled something low-key about apprenticeships. Victoria Prentis (Con, Banbury) had a goody-goody contribution about housing.
Robert Jenrick (Con, Newark) came over all baby-statesman in praise of Israel. Thelma Walker (Lab, Colne Valley) asked about her hospital without an ounce of flair.
And Joanna Cherry (SNP, Edinburgh SW), whose lawyerly monotone could suck the joy out of a convention of tambourine-rattling Baptists, had some hot matter from the world of ‘LGBT+ rights’ – no doubt riveting to the cognoscenti but easily padded away by Mrs May.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) talked about universal credit. He flopped
Where are the House’s mavericks, its steaming individualists, its stroke-players, its florid agitators? When I first sketched the Commons, the Father of the House was a grand old hype-artiste called Sir Bernard Braine whose right arm moved in ever-faster circles as he spoke – to the point that he almost took off.
There was a Labour ex-actor, Andrew Faulds, who was as theatrical as he was unpredictable. Tony Benn almost never asked about constituency matters but raised the House’s attention to more interesting questions of principle or foreign affairs. Tam Dalyell would ping in questions of less than ten syllables. Deadly.
Alan Clark would drawl something politically incorrect. Eric Heffer would wax socialist. Tory Nick Budgen would say something so dry, it could have been Saharan sand.
Mrs May sounded composed and adult. Where are the House’s mavericks, its steaming individualists, its stroke-players, its florid agitators?