Boris Johnson’s cheap jibes and antics over Brexit and a general election managed to make even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn look Prime Ministerial, writes Jim Duffy.
You know we are in deep, deep trouble when the best retort a Prime Minister can come up with to shout down the opposition leader is – “you great big girl’s blouse!” And that is exactly what the right honourable Boris Johnson shouted at the right honourable Jeremy Corbyn this week. That was after calling him a “chlorinated chicken”, which is what we will all be eating if Mr Johnson has his way.
Who needs the Jeremy Kyle show when we have probably one of the best chavvy, theatrical freak shows on TV – ever. Welcome to the House of Commons. No wonder First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP Government smell blood.
I’ve never understood why the ‘Commoners’ refer to themselves as my right honourable or learned friend. Isn’t that a non-sequitur, based on their current performance? Regardless, this week brought out those who have class and those who are just wing-nuts trying to do policy on the fly, with a direct feed from strategy spads [special advisors]. More on Dominic Cummings later. First, to those with class.
Hilary Benn introduced a bill this week in which he needed cross-party support to stop a no-deal Brexit. He started the debate with such aplomb, humility, candour and what I can only categorise as authenticity – not a word I would use to describe a large rump of our leaders within the House of Commons. He was statesmanlike and, for a moment, I thought most prime ministerial. Up next was the ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond. Immaculate as usual, sporting a smart understated tie, crisp white shirt and dark blue fitted suit and with his well-groomed silver hair, Mr Hammond was the clearest I had ever heard him on Brexit, no-deal and the lack of negotiations actually taking place just now. Despite being chucked out the Conservative Party alongside 20 others, he was blue through-and-through.
But the best was saved to last with another ex-Chancellor and the current Father of the House. Kenneth Clark probably gave the best speech of this life, basically calling Boris Johnson a liar. Of course, the language this clever old politician used was disingenuous. He was applauded from all sides of the House, including the right honourable Ian Blackford, that wee chubby bloke who speaks with a teuchter accent who is one of the best performers in the House of Commons. Add in Frank Field and a few others and for a moment I began to believe that we indeed had very decent men and women who epitomised the term “honourable”.
But of course as we live in bifurcated times where there is only black and white, blue and red or truth and fake news, I soon saw the other side. It was a bit like watching Star Wars. The good guys like Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker did their best to walk the way of the Force.
But, Lord Vader and his followers were ready to act like bully boys for the Dark Side. Enter firstly Mr Posh himself, Jacob Rees-Smugg. Mr Rees-Smugg was caught on camera sprawled across the hallowed benches like a Cheshire cat who had just had the cream. It was as if he owned the bloody place. And this is after he had savaged a well-respected physician on national radio, simply to belittle him. Bad form. This was the catalyst for the Conservatives losing their working majority as Dr Phillip Lee crossed the hall to join the Lib Dems, appalled at what the lanky Cheshire Cat had done to a fellow well-respected physician.
And there was Lord Vader himself, trying so hard to look like a Prime Minister, but failing miserably. Having been called a “liar” on TV and radio and newspapers across the land, his Teflon exterior was beginning to crack. The honeymoon over, he was now where he truly belonged – smack bang in the spotlight and on trial for bringing the UK to the Brexit precipice with no plan and no apparent strategy. Mind you, and we must give Dominic Cummings a mention here as he has a lot to say, apparently, behind closed doors. There may be a strategy in all this, but I’m guessing he’s making it up as he goes along. It will make one of the best “The Thick of It” series ever. I do hope Malcolm Tucker is watching. He has just met his match.
Now with two heavy defeats behind him, Prime Minister Johnson began to look vulnerable and a bit like the chancer he is – Del Boy with an Oxford education. Labour MPs applauded enthusiastically as he was accused of being a racist over comments in his newspaper column about Muslin women in face-veils looking like “letterboxes”, while even some of his own flailing MPs now appeared to be sick of his fibs, This was a man beginning to crack. No more the jokes, one-liners and ‘check out how funny and cute I am’. No, this Prime Minister looked awful, stumbling to make sense at the dispatch box while throwing cheap jibes at Jeremy Corbyn, who is now actually looking more like a Prime Minister than BoJo. I know, it can’t believe it either.
This was the week when some in the House of Commoners deserved the title – right honourable.
While sadly, the brutal, power-hungry, no-holds-barred shenanigans of others showed them up as no more than what they are. On this alone, there’s now a good chance Mr Corbyn could grace Number 10 and Nicola Sturgeon may end up leaving a lasting legacy in Scotland.