MM’s political sketchbook: Obfuscation, finger-pointing and utterly irrelevant book tips for last PMQs of season

IN a squall of obfuscation, finger-pointing and utterly irrelevant book recommendations, today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, the last before the summer recess, concluded this sitting’s run of temper tantrums and self-congratulatory theatrics.

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, began by asking the Prime Minister about the Intelligence and Security Committee’s “Russia report”, saying: “It concludes that Russia poses an immediate and urgent threat to our national security.”

“The Prime Minister received that report 10 months ago. Given that the threat is described as “immediate and urgent”, why on earth did the Prime Minister sit on that report for so long?

Boris Johnson claimed that, since he had been in office, his departments had “been taking the strongest possible action against Russian wrongdoing.”

His voice steadily rising to the petulant whine of a wobbly-lipped child, he forged onwards in his detour around the question, accusing Starmer of “[sitting] on his hands and [saying] nothing, while the Labour Party parroted the line of the Kremlin” following the Salisbury poisonings in 2018.

Starmer retorted that he had “condemned what happened in Salisbury” and “supported the then Prime Minister on record”, before continuing “the report was very clear that, until recently, the government has badly underestimated the Russian threat.”

“The government has taken its eye off the ball. Arguably, it wasn’t even on the pitch,” he said.

In the face of further grilling, Johnson, practically punching his finger in Starmer’s direction, announced: “Let’s be in no doubt about what this is really about. This is about pressure from the Islingtonian Remainers, who have seized on this report to try to give the impression that the Russian interference was somehow responsible for Brexit.

“I think that everybody understands that these criticisms are motivated by a desire to undermine the referendum on membership of the European Union.”

After nearly ten minutes of these increasingly belligerent outbursts, Johnson had still failed to even come close a satisfactory response.

But this is hardly surprising; why give a straight answer when you can fill the time with blustering accusations instead?

What is surprising is that, even after 11 weeks of PMQs with Starmer, Johnson is still incapable of keeping his cool against the Labour leader’s precise and measured interrogation. Instead of matching Starmer’s attention to detail with a similarly thorough approach, he resorts time and time again to blathering prevarication.

Starmer’s queries were followed by the usual gaggle of Conservative MPs, proudly pronouncing their pre-prepared questions-cum-exaltations, and then nodding merrily along to the pre-prepared reply.

And then, as the grand finale to this exercise in evasion, Tory MP for Wealden, Nusrat Ghani, saw fit to suggest some “holiday reading” for the Prime Minister, including a dose of Winnie the Pooh for his son Wilfred.

And why not turn PMQs into a glorified book club? It would likely be of more use to the British public than today’s pantomimic impersonation of politics.

Image courtesy of the BBC via iPlayer, with thanks.

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