In the words of the poet dril, politics is back, baby. This is the first time since Coronavirus forced the House of Commons to implement social distancing measures that we’ve seen a “normal” Prime Minister’s Questions. There is undoubtedly a psychological effect: this was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s at his most relaxed and comfortable (even his clear losing battle against his greatest opponent – his bald spot – had seemingly gone his way) as opposed to his often tetchy performances when the House was empty. This was also a visibly less assured Keir Starmer asking questions about the Prime Minister’s social care plan, which has irritated his own MPs and has not been fully embraced by the public so far either, though it should pass thanks to the government’s large majority.
The return of the noise brings back the question of who PMQs is for, exactly? When, at a certain point, Starmer brought up the real human story of a single mother who would struggle with the coming cut to Universal Credit, it is hard to believe she would have had an easy time keeping up with the jeers and boos that preceded it. Equally, there is very little accountability to be had when the Prime Minister can say just about anything in an upbeat manner and get away with it. The wins and losses are primarily about how a certain line lands or, most importantly, about how a good performance leads to easier party management.
On that measure, Boris Johnson has certainly won the day: a casual viewer will get the impression that the party is much more solidly behind his plans than they actually are. Though the Prime Minister didn’t say much, his evasive answer towards Ed Davey shows that this wasn’t a plan that addressed many other issues in the care sector, he certainly said it in the correct manner for his own MPs; like a cheery auctioneer who is certain regardless of the numbers being said, that there will be a bid at the end of sentence. In the end, however, this is a plan for fixing a desperate crisis in that country through a method that is arguably not fair and might not even work at all. It would be good if the country could get more detail about it and less theatre.
Watch Out For: Twice during this PMQs the Prime Minister had to jump to the defense of his Cabinet ministers. It is said that Boris Johnson struggles with firing people and does not like reshuffles; however, just as sacking underperforming ministers comes with a cost, so does keeping them around at an increasingly irritated party and public.
Did it provide entertainment or accountability? Only if you watch sitcoms for the canned laughter.
The Real Winner: The man who won the election a couple of years ago, and now can just ask people to laugh at his jokes regardless of how funny they are. It’s free serotonin!