The Prime Minister was surprisingly jaunty… Keir Starmer’s brow crinkled with perplexity: HENRY DEEDES sees Boris Johnson on top form batting off the Opposition
Armistice Day in the Commons, where at PMQs Labour’s guns fell eerily silent. No oikish jeers, no rowdy ya-boos. Even excitable Angela Rayner, uncharacteristically demure in a Kamala Harris-style trouser suit, switched her voice mode to mute.
Boris Johnson, by contrast, was surprisingly jaunty. He padded away each of Sir Keir Starmer’s questions with the casual confidence of a top-order batsman playing for the draw. Gone was that gloopy-eyed glare of last week. Talk of a vaccine riding to the rescue had clearly put a smile on the PM’s chops.
Sir Keir’s attacks focused on government waste. Ha! Labour complaining of squandered cash is like Donald Trump moaning about sore losers. Many of us still wince at the billions Gordon Brown splurged on that hopeless NHS computer system.
Boris Johnson, by contrast, was surprisingly jaunty. He padded away each of Sir Keir Starmer’s questions with the casual confidence of a top-order batsman playing for the draw
Vexing Starmer in particular was a £130million bill for spin doctors. Boris pointed out these had been required by the vaccine task force to combat the tripe being churned out by the anti-vax crackpots. Public relations are unfortunately a necessary evil of public life. Much like expensive lawyers. Never hear ex-barrister Sir Keir complaining about those, do we?
Sir Keir’s tone grew ever more lordly as he lectured the PM about not knowing the ‘cost of the pound in his pocket’. He accused Boris of treating public money as though it were his own. I would have thought that people tend to be more cautious when it comes to spending their own money, but hey ho.
As Starmer racked up his list of charges, it was noticeable how each criticism he levelled at Boris he also made against Chancellor Rishi Sunak. How desperate the Opposition is to take the shine off the golden boy’s gleaming halo.
Sir Keir brought up some of the Government’s disastrous PPE deals. Some sounded as though they were done inside the back of Del Boy’s three-wheeler. We heard how one company, Randox, was paid £150million for a stack of unusable face masks.
Sir Keir’s tone grew ever more lordly as he lectured the PM about not knowing the ‘cost of the pound in his pocket’. He accused Boris of treating public money as though it were his own. I would have thought that people tend to be more cautious when it comes to spending their own money, but hey ho
Yes, yes, said Boris, we’ve moved on since then. He pointed that the Government had since procured 32billion items of PPE, none of which would have been possible without the private sector.
The PM was deftly making his opponent look anti-business. Sir Keir’s brow crinkled with perplexity. He promptly turned to the furlough scheme. He brought up a conversation he’d had this week with a photographer called Chris whose sector has been decimated by the Government’s failure to support the self-employed.
Boris advised Chris to carry on following the Government’s lockdown measures. Not much of a comfort to the out-of-pocket lensman. Couldn’t Hacked Off hand our struggling snappers some of Max Mosley’s squillons?
With Sir Keir out of questions, the PM trotted out some prepared spiel for the news bulletins, urging the public to adhere to his ‘Hands, face, space’ mantra. With increased testing and a vaccine in the pipeline, science had given us ‘two big boxing gloves to pummel the virus’, he said, ‘neither capable of delivering a knock-out blow on its own’.
Sir Keir, who had failed to land his own knock-out punch, sat there all sniffy, looking as though Carrie had just plonked a sack of Boris’s unlaundered smalls on his lap.
In other exchanges, Ian Blackford erroneously congratulated Joe Biden on winning the ‘North American election’. The good people of Canada might have a thing or two to say about that.
As ever, man o’ the people Blackford was speaking from his luxury Mar-a-Lago on the Isle of Skye. I notice Sky News now captions him as ‘former senior executive of Deutsche Bank’. He’ll hate that.
Probably the only noteworthy moment of this tepid session came when Labour’s Angela Eagle (Wallasey) asked the PM about his ‘erstwhile friend’ Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the election result. Boris pointedly referred to Trump as the ‘previous president’.
Just as he spoke, an email popped up in my inbox from the Trump campaign team requesting a $5 donation to help drag the election through the courts. Time for Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka to stage an intervention, if not call in the men in white coats…