Wednesday, 19 July 2017
PMQs Review 19th July 2017: Tempora Mutantur, Et Now Mutamur In Illis Edition
Last week, embracing her inner Gordon Brown, Theresa didn't turn up for PMQs as she had an appointment with the King of Spain instead, although why Ashley Giles deserves such preferential treatment is unknown. Chauncey, being the exemplar of the new politics, took the opportunity to spend more time with his manhole covers and recently neglected allotment too.
And this week will be the last session before the summer recess, or febrile leadership talk season as it has become known in recent years. This year, for the second year in succession, the Tories are engaging in this sport. Labour have decided against, not because they don't want to, but because if they do the Momentum hordes will briefly stop daubing swastikas on Tory posters and turn their attentions on them instead. This is, after all, the age of kinder and nicer politics. Just ask the people of Grenfell Tower who would like to know who the raving loons speaking on their behalf are and who asked them to put their oar in.
The Cabinet is currently engaged in the kind of backbiting open warfare that Labour until recently made its speciality. On a range of issues, but mostly Philip Hammond, austerity, public sector pay, Philip Hammond, Brexit and Philip Hammond there is no real consensus. Since government is supposed to proceed by consensus they came up with the cunning ruse of leaking what Phil said before consensus was reached. Brilliant!
Theresa is being urged to clamp down on this idiocy. Or to stand down. Or to step up. Or to bang heads together. Or to blow her own brains out. Or something like that. There is no consensus. One possible avenue for her to go with her head held high was lost at the weekend when the BBC named a female Doctor Who. Sadly Jodie Whittaker got the gig rather than the woman presiding over the gig economy. Still, at least it didn't go to George Osborne.
Nothing is certain in politics these days of course, but it seems unlikely now that Theresa will be removed from power over the summer, something that was once talked about as inevitable. Unless of course she does a Diane Abbott and blames ill health for her inability to carry on. She could then demand a job in the Cabinet as her price, like those tennis players who feigned injury only to turn up for the doubles the following day. Diane Abbott also has diabetes, albeit the sort you get from eating too many pies. Think about it Prime Minister. Or consider it on this year's walking holiday.
And of course Labour has rowed back on its tuition fees and student debt promises. These weren't promises apparently, they were aspirations. Labour also aspires to one day have a coherent policy on Europe, in the meantime it has a policy to waffle endlessly until interviewers give up. If they are from the BBC they probably have other financial matters on their minds.
This week Chauncey was in full sanctimonious mode again on the issue of public sector pay and the current travails of the Cabinet. They are bickering he said, seemingly forgetting the last couple of years in his own party. Labour too are bickering, they are just putting on a more united front in public. Sarah Champion was on the BBC talking to Andrew Neil: paid half of what Huw Edwards is paid. She made various contradictory assertions vis a vis student tuition fees but essentially admitted that the Labour leader lied about 'dealing' with student debt. They can't. It's impossible as many of us pointed out. This looked like a brilliant ruse at the election. Now interviewers, even those paid as little as Andrew Neil, are on the case.
And Chauncey continued his strange sub Dickensian tales of the misery that a pay cap has inflicted on the country. Quite how this can be the case is puzzling. He gave as an example the starting salaries of various public sector workers like nurses and police officers. In so doing he probably gave a boost to recruitment efforts. Apparently playing doctors, nurses and cops nets you a starting salary a starting salary of £23k. Kerching. Across the country people will have been wondering what the hell all the fuss is about. Starting on 20 grand plus? When you are still learning? With better pensions, maternity and paternity rights, annual leave and general working conditions? Sounds great. It's nearly as lucrative as reading an autocue for the BBC. Quite how such salaries lead to the kind of misery and food banks depicted by Chauncey is a mystery. Could it be that nurses are as useless at managing their money as Labour governments?
What Labour also never mention is that public sector workers get automatic annual increments to their pay regardless of performance. They are called pay bands. Nurses and teachers also move around within the NHS or education system and increase their salaries accordingly. Pay freezes are only part of the story. In the NHS in particular, nurses frequently set aside their devotion to the service by doubling their pay by going and working for agencies and thus fleecing the good old NHS of much needed funds.
It would be churlish however not to admit that, though much of what he says is inaccurate and dishonest Chauncey has got much better at saying it. His confidence is there for all to see. It's the same old impecunious drivel about spending money we don't have and throwing it at any and all problems and hoping that solves them. As usual Labour make the mess, Tories are left to clear it up and then get blamed for being hard hearted. It's part of the cycle of politics. It would be dreary and depressing under normal circumstances, but with Chauncey in charge and a possibility to take charge of the whole country it is alarming because he would be so much worse and more vindictive. Imagine the devastation he could wreak on the country as we leave the EU. He doesn't even understand what the Single Market and customs union are.
The PM has to a large extent got her mojo back. She is never particularly good at these sessions but she was good enough to hold her own against a Labour leader who remains better than expected but still not very good. Maybe Labour could put that on a poster.
Presumably the PM will still be the PM when we meet again on 6th September. But you never know. Today's performance certainly won't have done her any harm.