Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

PMQs: The tragedy of Richard Burgon

(Image from Parliament TV)

PMQs is sixty years old. Speaker Hoyle opened the proceedings with a reminder that the weekly cross-examinations began in July 1961.

Boris wasn’t there. Well, he was, but via Zoom. A televised shot of his head was beamed from Chequers to a flat-screen screwed to a high gallery. This was unfortunate for Sir Keir Starmer who needed to tackle the blond amplitude of Boris in person. Instead, he had to wrestle with an image, to punch at a vacancy and to skewer a shimmering square of coloured pixellations. It was like headbutting a cushion.

Sir Keir was armed with some excellent complaints about the government’s ping debacle. Millions of citizens have equipped themselves with a pocket robot that can place them under house arrest at a moment’s notice. The resulting chaos has been compounded by mixed messages from the government. Sir Keir made fun of their confused ramblings. One minister called the ping ‘advisory.’ Another suggested, ‘it is there to help you make informed decisions.’

Sir Keir did a little pantomime of amused scorn. ‘What on earth does that mean?’ He kept this up throughout, chuckling, snuffling and giggling at his commentary on Boris’s self-inflicted woes. This looked rather childish and unserious.

One of Labour’s noisiest pipsqueaks, Richard Burgon, stood up and delivered a harangue pickled in malice

‘Feeble stuff,’ said Boris dismissively. With a pained note in his voice, he said that he had hoped ‘this would be a glorious 60th-anniversary edition of PMQs.’He made it sound like Just A Minute.

Hopping-mad Ian Blackford got to his feet and tossed out a venomous aside about the ‘levelling up’ agenda. The Scots, he threatened, are more interested in ‘settling up’. He turned to the recently uncovered texts in which Boris refers to Covid and its tendency to target the elderly.

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