Lloyd Evans

PMQ’s sketch: two plank-walkers at the helm of the ship

PMQ's sketch: two plank-walkers at the helm of the ship
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Rare to see a plank-walker at the helm of the ship. Today there were two. Cameron has accepted the inevitable and his demeanour at the despatch box was relaxed, amused, peaceable. Buoyant at times. Even foes like Bernard Jenkin exchanged warm words with him. And he handled Corbyn with extreme mildness until a rush of blood seized him at the end.

‘For heaven’s sake, man, go!’ he lashed out.

But go where? Jezza’s impersonation of Rasputin is his best performance yet. He’s indestructible. Last weekend he was hacked to pieces by a flash-mob of tooled-up colleagues. He then suffered a thundering defeat in a no-confidence vote which merely boosted his confidence in his powers of survival. Today he stood up and was greeted by three waves of sound. Faint ‘hear hears’. Then a twitchy silence. Then loud laughs at the silence. It was amazing. The inanimate spirit of the chamber seemed to be mocking him. And yet the great fingernail-clinger refuses to give up. Like a rock star performing his 100


farewell gig he ran through all his greatest hits. Poverty. Austerity. Benefit cuts. And he announced, with a hint of grisly satisfaction, that 300,000 more Britons have just joined the bread-line.

Labour’s backbenchers stirred into life only when Douglas Carswell was called. Carswell might have merited a hero’s welcome in the mother of parliaments. After all, he represents a movement which – with a single MP – has overturned the policy of every other party. But Carswell faced jeers and mutterings of outrage as if he were a hunchback trying to enter a Mr Universe competition. The Speaker had to call for hush. The UKIP member made the sensible point that Leave and Remain must now initiate a process of healing. More squawks and chunterings arose from every side. But his words were greeted warmly in one quarter. The prime minister and former UKIP-baiter-in-chief accepted the wisdom of Carswell’s peace offer. An interesting lesson in politics. Ditch power and you re-embrace common sense. 

Anti-democracy activist, Angus Robertson, revealed that his reading skills have entirely deserted him. He told the house that a majority of his countrymen had voted for ‘Scotland to leave the EU’. But Scotland didn’t appear on the ballot paper. Perhaps he was seeing things. He praised Nicola Sturgeon, his close comrade in the war against majority rule. Scotland’s first minister wants to chivvy the EU into granting Scotland what Scotland has already declined: independence. Today she’s in Brussels walking the corridors of power. But only the corridors. No one will let her into a room for a real meeting because chaos would instantly erupt. If every region in Europe achieved its dream of nationhood the EU would land itself with 150 new members.

Paul Blomfield, who does what he can to represent the people of Sheffield, issued a series of contradictory and ill-researched statements. He said the Leave campaign had promised to pay every EU grant and kickback in full. He then announced, somewhat prematurely, that this promise had proved ‘worthless.’ Finally he asked the PM to compel his successor to honour the Euro-debts anyway, although he didn’t explain how a retired PM can force a sitting PM to carry out a random policy in order to satisfy a trainee politician from Sheffield. More of the same from Nick Thomas-Symmonds, for Torfaen, who demanded that every Brussels IOU be paid to the last penny. Anything less would be a ‘gross betrayal’ he thundered feebly. These chaps just don’t get it.  If you quit the gang of thieves you forfeit your share of the pilferings.