Covid changes its identity more often than Grant Shapps. The latest strain emerged with the appealingly exotic name ‘Indian’. Now it’s been given a more military-sounding tag, ‘the Delta variant.’ Today’s PMQs featured a tussle over the date on which this dangerous mutant sneaked through the UK’s borders. Sir Keir Starmer waved a file of papers at Boris. ‘It’s all here in the transcript,’ he said and he accused the PM of waiting too long to slap a ‘red list' notice on India.
For once, Sir Keir had his timelines in a twist. Boris flourished a counter-file at the opposition leader. It was written, said the PM, by the general secretary of the Labour party. ‘This is the document on which I believe he is relying.’ Boris quoted a statement that the Indian variant had been identified on 1 April. ‘That’s not the Delta variant,’ said Boris. ‘That’s the Kappa variant.’ Bad news for Sir Keir. His variants were at variance with the truth. Boris gave some advice to ‘Captain Hindsight.’
‘He needs to adjust his retro-spectrometer.’
The main bout of the day was an unexpected dust-up between Scotland and Australia. The SNP fielded a team of four attacking players while the Aussies, unrepresented in the House, relied on the PM to defend them.
Ian Blackford started things off. Even the most kind-hearted observer will have noticed that Blackford hates happiness. Glee offends him. Smiling is an affront to his sense of rectitude and propriety. An outbreak of delight, even on the other side of the world, is likely to drive him nuts.
‘This disastrous trade deal is being celebrated in Canberra,’ he said sniffily. Might the Aussies be pleased at the prospect of new mercantile links with their cousins back home? Such a kind thought could never occur to a professional gloomster like Blackford. He told the House that Scotland had been thrown ‘under the Brexit bus’. He was supported by a chorus of whines and grumbles from his backing vocalists.
Owen Thompson said the ‘bungled talks’ had led to a ‘shoddy trade deal’ that would put crofters in peril. Kirsten Oswald said the agreement would undercut farmers and short change customers, (although it can hardly do both simultaneously). She added that the deal would ‘set animal rights standards back by decades,’ and she quoted an RSPCA report predicting a ‘race to the bottom’ on animal welfare. Aside from this platitude, she produced no evidence that farmers Down Under are mean to their livestock.
Boris went in to bat for Australia: ‘These constant attacks on their animal welfare standards will be very much resented, and not recognised,’ he said.
Next it was Marion Fellows’s turn to tear the Oz deal to pieces. ‘Scotland’s key industries will bear the brunt of a Tory Brexit that people in Scotland did not vote for.’
Boris asked if Fellows had heard of Scotch whisky or the trade in financial services? Both are big in Scotland. Both can expect fresh growth. Then he committed an act which the SNP will consider high treason. He said that the party wasn’t much good at representing Scotland.
‘What [the Scottish people] need is a different type of MP who can champion them, and who believes in Scotland.’
Blackford seethed with fury at this. His lungs were going like the clippers. He looked as if he’d just completed a five-yard run.