Boris Johnson came out swinging at PMQs. Let’s face it, after the fortnight he’s endured, he had to do something.
Admittedly it wasn’t pretty. More drunken brawling than what purists would call proper pugilism.
But isn’t that always the way with the Prime Minister? When the chroniclers of 21st-century politics come to compose their books, ‘elegance’ is unlikely to be the word they will use to describe his rhetoric.
The point was that having spent this past week panting and wheezing like a clapped-out old Morris Minor, Boris at least showed there’s a bit of fight left in him.
He arrived in his usual crash, bang manner: Head down, backside out, shoulders powering forwards.
Having spent this past week wheezing like a clapped-out old Morris Minor, Boris (pictured) at least showed there’s a bit of fight left in him at PMQs
All along the front bench, ministers flinch like flocks of startled geese whenever he does this.
Should the PM ever lose his balance in the course of making his oafish charge towards his seat, it’s likely he would take a fair few of them with him.
From the giant roars which came from behind, it was clear the whips’ office had been busy. Following last week’s no-shows, the Conservative benches were chock-a-block.
As the PM plonked himself down, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was hurriedly moved next to him in place of Liz Truss. After all the talk of a very un-neighbourly feud, don’t want to go scaring the horses…
Across the way, Labour MPs chirped and clucked. ‘Forgive me! Forgive me!’ they yelled, a reference to Boris’s disastrous CBI speech on Monday.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves pretended to muck up the order of Sir Keir Starmer’s papers.
Oh, how they laughed. When Sir Keir stood, he held his arms out wide in the manner of a dicky bow-wearing light entertainer.
Always a sure sign he’s feeling full of himself. He gave a little nod towards the Tory benches.
‘I see they turned up this week!’
He got stuck into the PM’s social care plans, namely his promise that people wouldn’t have to sell their homes to pay the costs.
He accused the Government of a ‘classic con game’ and running a ‘Covent Garden pickpocketing operation’. Boris pointed out that Labour had no plan at all.
His responses were hardly classics, but there was more energy about him than there has been in recent weeks.
He jabbed his fingers and pounded his fists and, after finally shaking off that heavy cold, his voice finally rediscovered a bit of oomph.
Starmer continued his cocky jig. He pondered whether the PM would still be around before the next election. Funny, some Labour MPs wonder that about Sir Keir.
Boris, laughing, shook his head in sorrow. ‘You’re a complete wally!’ he yelled.
Labour’s leader had some decent lines but as ever they got lost among endless streams of waffle. You could feed Starmer a Jackie Mason one-liner and he’d make it go on longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
He reeled off the PM’s recent woes before echoing the reporter who recently asked: ‘Is everything OK Prime Minister?’
Boris (pictured) launched himself at the despatch box and went off on one of his spiels about how we’d still be in lockdown if Starmer had his way
Boris launched himself at the despatch box and went off on one of his spiels about how we’d still be in lockdown if Starmer had his way.
Conservative backbenchers loyally whooped and shook their order papers. All bar one. Theresa May barely moved an eyelash.
One of the features of these sessions are the groans which herald the arrival of Ian Blackford. As the SNP leader clambered to his feet yesterday, the chamber practically howled in collective agony.
His weekly sermon remained unchanged: Tory shambles, Brexit, ‘the people of Scotland’, etc. The only difference this week being that he asked if the Prime Minister might consider calling it a day.
Boris may well have asked him the same but thought better of it. After all, Mr Blackford provides us all with far too much entertainment.
A final observation. When Boris departed, he unusually chose to exit by the Speaker’s chair.
Relations between him and Sir Lindsay Hoyle have been glacial since the Owen Paterson business, which an ill-tempered PMQs last week did little to thaw.
As Sir Lindsay grunted his thanks, the PM responded with the faintest of growls. No eye contact, no smiles.
I’ve seen ill-tempered honey badgers behave more warmly towards one another.