PM? Hilarity? You might as well ask a puffin to whistle: QUENTIN LETTS

PM? Hilarity? You might as well ask a puffin to whistle: QUENTIN LETTS on yesterday in Parliament

Shouts of ‘bring back Lindsay!’ were heard during PMQs. These referred to Deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who last week supervised PMQs because John Bercow was absent. Sir Lindsay ran that session with humour, fairness, discretion. He kept things tight.

Yesterday Bercow (a figure that vacillates between smouldering peevishness and gaseous sycophancy in these his troubled days) was back. Things reverted to their rotten recent form.

The session was rancorous and droning. It over-ran by 22 minutes. The Speaker kept contributing – he aches ever to be heard – and leeway was given to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, both of whom could have conveyed more had they said less. Afterwards Bercow was angry that a Government statement on the East Coast mainline had leaked to the reptiles of the Fourth Estate before Transport Secretary Chris Grayling could break the news to the House. Had the Speaker brought PMQs to a halt at 12.30pm, as he should have done, there would have been rather less news seepage. He had only himself to blame.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May as she speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs)

Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, left the Chamber well before the end of PMQs. So did other MPs. Even the Downing Street and official Opposition press officers scarpered before the session came to a halt, for the world needed to get on and there are only so many hours in any soul’s lifetime.

Theresa May may have still been grinding her way through answers at the despatch box but Members and other onlookers were drifting away from the Chamber, ungripped and in need of a nosebag. Mr Corbyn had produced an effective if predictable barb at the start of his questions. He noted that the Prime Minister always spoke of her desire, with Brexit, for ‘as little friction as possible’. Did she mean as little friction as possible with her Cabinet colleagues or with the European Union? Laughter. But not from Mrs May. Hilarity does not come easily to her. Correction. It does not come to her at all.

You might sooner ask a puffin to whistle, or a saddhu to wear his Old Etonian tie, or Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to complete the Mail’s quick crossword. Mrs May, in the face of a joke, stands unmoved, unblinking, uncomprehending, the Venerable Bede at the mouth of an Ibiza nightclub.

We used to know an ancient Jack Russell that came round to our house in search of biscuits and would be shouted at most severely – great growling and threatened biting – by our two, daft Patterdales. The Jack Russell would stand there, motionless, looking magnificently bored, until our lunatics tired of their aggression and trotted off in search of alternative entertainment. Mrs May takes the same approach. At one point she said she wanted a ‘customs union’ with the EU but we were later told this had been a heat-of-the-moment mistake. She had meant ‘customs arrangement’.

(L-R) Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle. Sir Lindsay Hoyle was so popular as Speaker in Parliament there were shouts for him to replace John Bercow when he returned to take session on Wednesday

The only other moment of mild interest was when she said leaving the EU was ‘a matter of the integrity of politicians – we should deliver on that choice’ made by the voters at the EU referendum. Mr Corbyn makes no such assertion.

But the day’s abiding characteristic was MPs’ widespread wordiness, the loquacity, the logorrhoea, the prating perissology (good grief, they’ve got me doing it now).

Stephen Kinnock (Lab, Aberavon), who is one of the more intelligent of them and has a lovely voice, ruined a promising question about the EU by simply going on too long. Dullards like Maggie Throup (Con, Erewash) and Virendra Sharma (Lab, Ealing Southall) and many others asked questions that stretched like bubble gum. The more they spoke, the less anyone listened.

Same with Labour’s Chief Whip, Nick Brown, who had a point of order complaining that Mr Grayling had not given his Labour shadow the customary advance warning of his rail statement. Mr Brown could have made his point in half the time, and thus made it more pointed.

Amazing how inept so many of them are.


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