Lloyd Evans

Parliament’s departing greybeards enjoy one final waffle at PMQs

Parliament's departing greybeards enjoy one final waffle at PMQs
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There was astonishment at the start of PMQs as Michael Fabricant’s wig flew up into the air. Fortunately its owner was rising to speak at the same time so no embarrassment was suffered. John Bercow indulged the house in this last session before the election and let MPs give speeches rather than ask questions. The results were mixed. Was it classic Westminster-in-action? Or classic Westminster inaction? The exchanges lasted twice as long as normal and were less than half as informative. Theresa May crammed every sentence with Crosby buzz-phrases. ‘Strong economy’, ‘stable Conservative leadership’ she said about a zillion times. Her remote-controlled backbenchers followed suit. May’s willingness to repeat these stale abstractions time and again became quite surreal. If she was asked to add two and two she’d say, ‘four, but four is only possible with a strong economy under stable Conservative leadership.’

Jeremy Corbyn looked his usual self: head of security at a real ale festival. He did his customer complaints routine and read out sour grapes from prize-winning malcontents. Middle-aged Maureen was ‘disgusted’, she said, to have been given ‘no notification’ about delays to her forthcoming pension. People wondered how Maureen was able to moan about a penalty she had received ‘no notification’ of. The house felt more sympathy for Sybil, a fighting-fit 88-year-old, who supported the NHS but feared being admitted for treatment. The blame lies with the squads of lobbyists, protesters and charity-suckers who spend their time discrediting the health system and sowing fear in the minds of patients. Corbyn leads this terror-unit but he seems unaware of his culpability. He even said Sybil was ‘right to be frightened about going into hospital’. Which makes the point perfectly. Job done, Jezza.

At the end of this parliament, many an ageing fog-horn will be asked to ‘put a sock in it’ by a grateful public. Despite the noise in the chamber, Speaker Bercow allowed the departing greybeards to enjoy a final waffle. Knighted dinosaur after knighted dinosaur honked his last across the roaring pit. These valedictions were more painful than ceremonious. ‘Godspeed’, yelled Sir Peter Lilley, who said he was resigning only after assuring himself that Britain would be safe in Theresa May’s hands. Right-oh. So Lilley has spent the last 34 years on stand-by in Westminster waiting to leap in at a moment’s notice and rescue us all. Thanks, Superman.

Sir Gerald Howarth ended his career by screaming Elizabethan verse, incorrectly. ‘This glorious sceptred isle,’ he barked, misquoting Shakespeare and getting all soapy around the gills. Not edifying. Sir Eric Pickles made a succinct and serious point about anti-Semitism. He was the only knighted exiteer to quit with his dignity. Velvety-voiced Sir Simon Burns purred and oozed about the ‘great’ voters of Cheltenham whom he called ‘perspicacious.’ Gasps greeted this big word. (adj: ‘discerning, perceptive’.) Sir Simon concluded by reading out autocue phrases from the Crosby idiot-board. The ‘perspicacious’ voters of Chelmsford will now know they elected a zombie with a fruity voice.

Little Tim Farron got up at the end, his puggish face all wonky and hurt, like a scrunched-up paper bag. He berated Labour’s feeble leadership and looked forward to a proper left-leaning opposition after 8


June. Thereby conceding victory to the Tories.