It seems Bonfire Night has come early this year. First there were fireworks in the chamber after Labour tabled an Urgent Question on Sue Gray's investigation into 'partygate.' And this afternoon Private Eye editor Ian Hislop had quite the argy bargy with Tory grandee Sir Bernard Jenkin over at the Standards Committee. Hislop was one of a number of journalists called up before MPs in the aftermath of the Owen Paterson scandal to give evidence on sleaze-related scandals. And the long-serving Have I Got News For You panellist was on feisty form as he locked horns with Sir Bernard, one of those who voted to let Paterson off the hook in November.
Hislop was only up for less than an hour but managed to cram in more than his fair share of drama. After some early exchanges, Jenkin raised the issue of whether anti-sleaze rules were ever enough to change the Westminster culture.
First, he foolishly compared it to standards on Fleet Street, prompting Hislop to shoot back:
'Fortunately this committee is not looking into us, we're looking into you!'
Jenkin doubled down, suggesting more than rules were required to prevent sleaze, prompting Hislop to sneer:
'You want a moral shift in the quality of people who become MPs? I can't do much about that'.
'Why do you have to explain to a new MP why he shouldn't lobby for a company that's taking government contracts? Why isn't that blatantly obvious?'
The North Essex MP made one final doomed effort, suggesting that more regulation was needed. 'It's a fundamental fact of human nature that we are born savages and we have to be trained to be civilised human beings,' Jenkin claimed. An exasperated Hislop hit back:
'Can we leave the ethics and go on to the practicalities of what you do?'
Jenkin's plea that 'I thought this was all about ethics!' inspired Hislop to respond:
'I thought you wanted a philosophical discussion about the fallen human condition which again, you say you've got a vote in an hour...'
Who needs HIGNFY when fireworks like this are on Parliament TV?