Wednesday, 12 October 2016
PMQs Review 12th October 2016: The Coulrophobic Edition
We're back and Brexit still means Brexit. People are now wondering what this means. The Government would love to tell us, it really would, but this would give the game away - it's possible that the game here is that they are not really sure what it means.
Meanwhile Labour have had another reshuffle. It's been called the revenge reshuffle. The revenge seems to be that Diane Abbott has been promoted. This has caused consternation among all those who have ever listened to anything that she has ever said. Perhaps however it is a cunning move on Chauncey's part. She and he will soon be competing for the successor constituency in their part of north London from which most of his shadow government is drawn. He may be softening her up. He could always offer her a peerage like he did Shami and then put her in a position of prominence again. In the meantime we look forward to her questions about issues that are either inaccurate, about the wrong country or otherwise risible. It will certainly add to the gaiety of the nation for which we should be grateful to Chauncey who has been shouldering that burden himself now for a whole year.
There is Boris of course. Boris has this week suggested that Chauncey and his Stop the War pals should probably be protesting outside the Russian embassy about their fondness for waging war on innocents in Syria and in particular Aleppo. They claim to be waging war on terrorists. It would be rather like if we sent the RAF in to bomb certain parts of Alum Rock in Birmingham because of what they have been looking at on the internet.
Fortunately anyone asking questions of their MPs about any of this in an intemperate way will not now be protected from the ire of said MP. They will be free to be as rude as they like to their constituents. That's parliamentary privilege for you.
Apparently there is a worrying outbreak of clowns around the country. Insert your own joke here about Ukip/Labour/ Donald Trump. Coulrophobia is being heartlessly overlooked by those who seem to think that this is amusing. You would think that the recent part conference season would have sated their appetite.
Parliament is back though in the long slog to the next recess in a few weeks time. Parliament is demanding some kind of role in our Brexit process. There is a legal challenge trundling down the track. Today though it was the newly elected leader of the Labour Party trundling down the track like a drain cover.
He sounded confident though to give him his due. He spoke of his latest mandate. We had to hear about that a lot last year. Now we will have to listen to more about his latest, presumably until next year's Labour leadership election.
Fascinatingly, Chauncey chose to talk today about the subject de jour: our leaving the EU and what it will mean. Quite what Labour's position on this is unclear. Chauncey himself was conflicted on the issue to the point of staying silent about it for most of the referendum campaign. That was why he had to fare a leadership election after all.
Mrs May had started with heartfelt congratulations to Chauncey on his leadership victory. In truth though she is yet to really hit her stride in these sessions. She lacks the panache of her predecessor and can stumble when giving her answers. Nevertheless the scripted approach of Chauncey makes life easier for her. He asked awkward questions about the Government's confusion and conflicting statements on Brexit - perhaps it is all a clever ruse to confuse out negotiating partners - but he can never follow up. He is like a barrister who produces a killer document and then moves on to ask the witness what their favourite colour is. Perhaps this is why he has surrounded himself with such brilliant parliamentarians as Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry. He's not exactly a rose among thorns but his thorn looks slightly sharper at least.
Chauncey even objected to the notion that those seeking NHS care should be required to provide documentation to prove their eligibility for the same. The PM gently pointed out that this really ought not to be contentious. Or are Labour saying that we should have an open door policy for all immigrants - Chauncey's favoured position - and treat the world's sick and deliver their babies too?
There was a final flourish from Mrs May. Chauncey had tried to invoke the words of Ken Clarke from his excellent memoirs given to me as a birthday present this week. In return the PM alleged that Emily Thornberry, shadow Foreign Secretary (no, really) wants the country to have to vote again on our leaving the EU. An odd position this because Labour are demanding that parliament has more say. Which is it? But anyway, as the PM pointed out, Labour have recently discovered that having a second vote is not necessarily a wise move.
The EU and Brexit is of course the big subject and the Government is insistent that parliament will have its say and that we will try and get the best access to the single market that we possibly can whilst respecting the wishes of the British people. It's hardly an unreasonable policy position. Some seem to be claiming that this is all being pushed through without any kind of democratic consent (what was it happened on June 23rd?) At the end, in response to a question from Angela Eagle, one time contender for the Labour leadership, the PM listed the various ways that parliament will indeed have its say. Article 50 will be invoked next year by the Government. But we will only leave the EU formally by repealing the legislation that took us in. It's really quite simple.
On a larger and possibly even more important matter Mrs May said that there is unlikely to be a no fly zone over Syria, however much we may wish there could be. So we have at least averted World War 3. Best just go and protest outside the Russia embassy. Chances are you won't see Chauncey and his pals from the Stop the War movement there though.