PMQs was, by recent standards, a brief affair today. The new Speaker Lindsay Hoyle called the last question at 12.31 – in stark contrast to his predecessor John Bercow who liked to let the session drift on to almost 1pm.
The main exchanges were, unsurprisingly, about Iran. Jeremy Corbyn’s questions, though, were less than forensic and didn’t cause Boris Johnson many problems. The most striking thing was how Johnson toughened up his rhetoric on Soleimani saying ‘that man has the blood of British troops on his hands.’ Johnson also said that the government believed there were no US or UK casualties in last night’s strikes. If that is the case, and the firing of those missiles marks the end of the matter, there will be relief in Whitehall. It will mean that Boris Johnson has successfully walked the tightrope of avoiding a breach with the US while being part of a European diplomatic effort to deescalate the situation.
The SNP contingent gave Boris Johnson a tougher ride than Jeremy Corbyn. A series of SNP MPs, led by Ian Blackford, asked him about a second independence referendum. Boris Johnson responded by pointing out that Scotland had one in 2014 and that the SNP should, in essence, get on with the day job. But these exchanges were a reminder of how, if pro-independence parties succeed in winning a majority at Holyrood in 2021, the pressure on the UK government to grant a second referendum will be considerable.