First day of term’s always ghastly – an aggressive, competitive occasion, as over- excited schoolchildren seek to assert themselves.
There’s argy-bargy, one-upmanship. Then, amid all the posturing and bravado, some poor sap is getting a ribbing for the disastrous haircut he’s returned with from hols.
All these traits were in evidence in the Commons as MPs returned from the long summer recess to hear the Prime Minister deliver a statement on Afghanistan.
Having barely discussed the issue for years, MPs are now suddenly Middle Eastern sages. Knowledgeable as desert nomads.
There’s argy-bargy, one-upmanship. Then, amid all the posturing and bravado, some poor sap is getting a ribbing for the disastrous haircut he’s returned with from hols
Mrs May sat directly behind her successor, those Medusa eyes buried deep in his back
Hence a packed-out chamber yesterday. Even Matt Hancock (remember him?) turned up for a while.
Squeezed awkwardly on the back benches, he resembled an over-indulged princeling suddenly forced to slum it with the serfs in coach.
Oh, the bearer of the disastrous chop? Boris, of course. He arrived sporting a proper fight-with-the-lawnmower job on his bonce. I doubt if it’s relevant but I’m advised his hair hasn’t been cut that short since he began plotting to oust Theresa May.
Having barely discussed the issue for years, MPs are now suddenly Middle Eastern sages
His statement reached for the positives. Our presence in Afghanistan had given millions access to education. It saw off Al Qaeda. It protected the West from terrorist attacks. Yada, yada, yada.
As he spoke, there lingered a hangdog air around the Tory benches. The military types there feel the shame deeply. Those Afghan veterans Tom Tugendhat (Con, Tonbridge) and Tobias Ellwood (Con, Bournemouth E) ruefully shook their heads and puffed out their cheeks. Next to the PM, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (a former captain in the Scots Guards) lowered his head and stared at the floor with unblinking eyes.
Sir Keir Starmer attempted to curry favour with the Armed Forces by demanding medals for those who helped with the Kabul airlift.
What would your average squaddie make of the Labour leader? Probably not much. Too cautious, too smooth around the edges.
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, raged at Dominic Raab, demanding he be sacked. Boris waved a dismissive paw, like he was shooing away a cat. The Foreign Secretary appeared to smile. By demanding he go, Blackford only guarantees his safety.
As all this went on, Mrs May sat directly behind her successor, those Medusa eyes buried deep in his back. She asked a question about security in that scornful manner one reserves for traffic wardens with a poor grasp of English. She was dressed all in white which only added to that sepulchral presence she brings to proceedings. Speaking of fashion, another unusual sight: Jeremy Corbyn (Ind, Islington N) sporting a natty looking man-bag. Something from Gucci’s autumn/winter collezione?
We heard an alarming intervention from Peter Bone (Con, Wellingborough), who claimed a constituent had lobbied to help get persecuted Afghans out of Kabul only to later admit to him they were actually Taliban.
Speaking of fashion, another unusual sight: Jeremy Corbyn (Ind, Islington N) sporting a natty looking man-bag
Theresa May asked a question about security in that scornful manner one reserves for traffic wardens with a poor grasp of English
Opposition MPs usually scoff and sneer at such cynicism. Instead, Bone’s tale was greeted with silence. It’s inevitable a few iffy specimens will make it here from Kabul.
Considering President Biden’s woeful performance there was a surprising lack of bile aimed at America.
Former defence secretary Liam Fox, who fancies himself as an Atlanticist fixer, urged the PM to ‘stick closely’ to our US friends. The PM agreed whole heartedly. By the sounds of it, he’s off for an audience with arch-bore Biden in the coming weeks.
Labour MPs clucked and laid eggs about what a blow the Afghan mess was to ‘global Britain’.
Peter Kyle (Lab, Hove) inquired whether the PM felt Britain’s standing in the world had improved since he’d been in power.
‘Virtually everywhere!’ Boris harrumphed. He hinted at a new trade deal being announced this week. He could certainly use some good news up his sleeve. Today, he unveils his social care reforms, which are not popular, not least on his own benches. It’s going to be a tough old term.