Today was the 60th anniversary of PMQs, and we lived in hope it might be one of the few times it actually provided either entertainment or accountability. As Freedom Day descended into farce after the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Health Secretary were forced to self-isolate and former aide to the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings gave a blistering interview about the government’s failures around Coronavirus, including texts from the Prime Minister which revealed a cavalier, if not outright callous, attitude towards British lives. This being the last PMQs before summer recess, it offered an opportunity for leaders to try out new lines to use over the holidays as politics winds down. Here are our main takeaways from this session following the week so far:
- Brightspot: The speaker Lindsay Hoyle made the session even more ridiculous by asking the Prime Minister to turn up the sound, and we were treated to two minutes of watching the nation’s adult baby struggle with his laptop (again, we must ask: what would the government have to lose from simply asking Raab to act as a stand-in?).
- Joker of the Week: In a perpetual state of beclowning himself and everyone around him, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would have always struggled to win this session after the week he had. Indeed, he lost this one, trapped in the phantom zone of Chequers, trying to articulate why saying offensive, unjustifiable things was actually an exercise in empathy and statesmanship. The result would be described by sympathetic friends as “mixed”.
- Watch out for: The line “jobs tax” from Labour, referring to floated increases in National Insurance to fund social care. Should the party decide to stick to one consistent message, it could easily cause a lot of trouble for already nervous Tory backbenchers when it comes to breaking an explicit manifesto promise – remember that the last one was around a deeply unpopular cut to foreign aid and still managed to cut down the government’s majority considerably, even with a putative ‘compromise’ to reverse the cut down the line.
- Did it provide entertainment or accountability? No.
The real winner: You, who did not watch PMQs this week.