Boris Johnson vs ‘McBusted’ MPs was riveting drama – Ayesha Hazarika

As Boris Johnson gets grilled by MPs of all parties, Ayesha Hazarika is surprised to discover even non-political friends are tuning in to watch the show.

A video grab of Boris Johnson answering questions from a committee of MPs about the Government's handling of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic (Picture: handout/AFP via Getty Images)

The long road to Barnard Castle has cut through like nothing I have seen since the MPs’ expenses scandal.

Lots of my mates have more than a passing interest in politics but I do have people in my life who get so bored by it all and are highly irritated by the fact I’m surgically attached to political Twitter to the point where my left hand is morphing into a gnarly claw which clutches my phone for about 29 hours a day.

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I find them highly annoying as well with their sunny dispositions and hobbies.

So, imagine my utter shock when one such specimen told me they had to crack on with their work so they could tune into Boris Johnson’s appearance in front of the Liaison Committee.

Excuse me? “Do you even know what it is?” I patronised.

“Yeah… it’s like a supergroup of all the best MPs?”

“What do you mean? Like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young?”

“Hmm... more McBusted.”

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And there we were again, all glued to our screens. Like we were on Sunday and Monday. Dominic Cummings owes us all two extra bank holidays.

Sometimes, much anticipated parliamentary proceedings can be an anti-climax. But not this time.

The MPs, who are all chairs of select committees, who were selected to take part made sure they were match-fit.

Everyone had washed, worked out how to unmute themselves and had the confidence of people wearing actual trousers on a Zoom call.

Even though there had been a controversy over Sir Bernard Jenkin becoming chair, as he was the choice of the Government Chief Whip, this was a genuinely tough, forensic, satisfying grilling.

Senior MPs from all sides of the House exposed Johnson’s moral weakness on the Cummings defence and his poor grasp of detail in general.

It went on for a decent amount of time, there were opportunities for follow-up questions and it was probably the most illuminating and meaningful interrogation the Prime Minister has been subjected to.

While many journalists try valiantly to get answers at the daily press briefings, it’s easy for the PM to bat them away, but he couldn’t do that this week with his political peers.

While there were many pertinent questions about Cummings which captured the public anger, there were also policy questions across a range of issues including the impact on women who mainly have to organise childcare, the need for a pupil premium to close the attainment gap, which lockdown will have worsened, and the need to help those with no recourse to public funds.

We all learnt a lot.

It was also a reminder that even though it’s fashionable to slag off all politicians, it is imperative right now to have intelligent, decent MPs from every party – particularly Conservatives – who will be prepared to scrutinise a Prime Minister with a majority of 80 and a Cabinet of “yes men”.

Yes, we do have weekly PMQs, but answers are as rare as hens’ teeth. I would like to see the Liaison Committee summon the Prime Minister to appear every six weeks.

I know, I know. But a girl can dream...

Ayesha Hazarika is editor of the Evening Standard’s Londoner

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