There was an urgent question about jobs at PMQs today. One job in particular. The questioner, Maria Miller, was concerned that she hadn’t yet been hired to head a government department. She made her bid for promotion by strewing petals and scented bouquets at Boris’s feet.
She reminded us that on Friday, 24 July, the nation will celebrate the first anniversary of his outstanding leadership. She hailed his genius as a recruiter of cops and nurses. She extolled his mission to tackle ‘the regional inequalities we still have in this country’. And she described his feelgood phrase, ‘levelling up’, as a ‘vision’ which, she hoped, would guide him ‘through every year of his premiership.’
This was close to religious ecstasy. But the answer, obviously, will be ‘no’. She’s more use to Boris as a petitioner. The longer he rebuffs her, the more lavish her suit will become. Next she’ll ask for 24 July to be declared a national holiday.
Boris and Sir Keir Starmer squared up over the report into alleged Kremlin meddling in the Brexit referendum. Sir Keir accused the PM of trifling with our national security by withholding the report for months.
Boris teased him. All this talk of a Russian conspiracy, he said, was itself a conspiracy.
“I’ll tell you what’s behind this. Pressure from the Islingtonian Remainers who have seized on this report to give the impression that Russian intervention was responsible for Brexit.
He accused Sir Keir’s party of acting as Putin’s mouthpiece following the Salisbury incident.
“Labour parroted the line of the Kremlin while people in this country were being poisoned.
Sir Keir hated that. He pointed out that he’d helped the family of Alexander Litvinenko after his murder in 2006. So what? said Boris. When he was foreign secretary he’d sent 153 Russian diplomats packing.
The two men howled and hissed at each other like tomcats fighting over a drumstick. Boris mentioned the ex-Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who once regularly appeared on Russia Today, a poodle-channel which cosies up to anti-Western agitators.
Sir Keir looked a bit hurt. He said that under his leadership no Labour MP will be allowed to appear on Russia Today. That won’t be hard to enforce. Under his leadership, no Labour MP will be sufficiently influential to appear on RT.
He then turned to sanctions over China’s mistreatment of the Uyghur people. He urged the PM to ‘lead a concerted diplomatic action with our international partners to make clear that this simply cannot be allowed to stand.’
This was puzzling. Especially when taken in conjunction with his insistence that Russia had meddled with Brexit. These are the largest countries in the world, by population and territory, and Sir Keir seems to believe that Britain’s relations with them are globally significant. Yet the pro-EU crew always claimed that Brexit would emasculate Britain. Now it’s a different story. Even an arch-Remainer like Sir Keir accepts that Britain has enough heft to challenge two continental superpowers on the world stage.
Which is it?
Boris had earlier criticised him for inconsistent policy-making.
‘He flip-flops from day to day. He’s had more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach.’
A terrible gag. He should never have used it. Up got Sir Keir.
‘This is the former columnist who wrote two versions of every article he published.’
Bullseye. Best line ever from the Labour leader. Even Boris laughed.