Yesou would have thought there was worse to call ‘boring’ as Leader of the Opposition. Especially when so many around the country identify the prime minister as an amoral and lying chancellor. Boring might not be ideal – who wouldn’t rather be engaging? – but at least it gives an air of reliability. Someone who can be trusted to deliver.
But Keir Starmer seems to have taken the description given to him by some members of the shadow cabinet to heart and is keen to prove that he is in fact very interesting. Which is completely counterproductive. Because he then falls into the paradox of boredom.
The more he tries to convince the world that he’s a “kinda fun guy”, the duller he seems to get. A rabbit hole from which it is difficult to escape. Much better for embracing the dullness within. To make it a virtue. To show that it’s okay to be genuinely boring. Wear the cardigan with pride. No one has ever fallen in love with Keir because of his charisma.
Still, the Labor leader had started the Prime Minister’s Questions promisingly by keeping them short and sweet. How come the UK had the second lowest growth in the G20, with only Russia being the worst off? A sunburned Boris Johnson – we all know how much he loves attending outdoor work events in Number 10 – returned with an equally eye-catching response. We were doing so badly because we had come out of the pandemic the fastest.
It looked like a complete dog. Mainly because it was. So here’s Starmer’s opportunity to ridicule The Convict. To expose the toddler’s logic. Let’s get things straight. If Covid had lasted another six months, our economy would be booming. Or maybe we would be better off living under permanent confinement. To say that Johnson is the best brain the Conservative Party can throw to lead the country.
Instead, Starmer went into a tortured Star Wars gag about Boris being Jabba the Hutt, who died on his feet. So did his efforts to sound “with the kids” by inserting a Love Island reference, as it was clear he had no idea what he was talking about. And to say his backbench MPs thought Johnson was the “Corbyn Tory” was borderline suicidal. Corbyn may have been unpopular, but Keir had backed him as a leader. But in the meantime, he managed to deliver some more telling blows to the economy.
“Stop bashing the country,” shouted the convict, waving his arms in irritation. It is now unpatriotic to say anything negative about the country, even if it is true. Mention England’s 4-0 loss to Hungary and you’re almost dead.
Johnson didn’t want to talk about boring things that everyone cared about. Like the cost of living. He only wanted to talk about the things that divide the country. And excite the right wing of his party. Like Brexit. “We did Brexit,” he insisted. News for everyone. If Brexit is over, why haven’t we seen any benefits yet? Why are we about to break international law and get into a trade war with the EU?
Like refugees. The job was on the side of the smugglers. Apparently. The Conservatives were on the side of the budding refugees who stayed in their own country and died. Oh, and also on the side of ignoring the law again by leaving the human rights court. There was no element of international law that the UK should be prepared to accept. The World Trade Organization? Full of leftist capitalists. UEFA? Badass footballers plotting a new offside law to put England and Wales at a disadvantage.
And another thing… the convict was going through his list of perceived grievances. Labor was doing nothing to stop next week’s railway strikes. He seemed to think Labor had been in government for 12 years and that Starmer was responsible for the Tories making no effort to negotiate with the unions.
The hardcore, callous fanatics in the backseats gobbled it up. Never happier than when they have an enemy to fight. EU. The Human Rights Court. Trade unions. Refugees. The world. They yelled their approval. So much so that much of the rest of the PMQs was an unintelligible cacophony. A pitiful mess for which the weak President was responsible. Lindsay Hoyle pretends to threaten MPs but never follows through. And the deputies step on him. Throw one in and you might just get a functional bedroom.
Once the last echoes of the PMQs died down, Priti Patel stood up to explain why spending £500,000 on a flight that had never taken off was great value for money. It had never been about numbers, but rather about fighting. “We have a world-leading program,” she said, repeating the words her idiot non-scholarly junior minister, Tom Pursglove, had used on Monday. The world leader, like everyone else, decided it was a catastrophically dumb idea.
But even though the lawyers – Priti Vacant made no secret of her contempt for people trying to apply the law properly – managed to get everyone off the plane, the scheme was still a resounding success. The fewer refugees we exported to Rwanda, the more its value was proven. Overcome traffickers. And yes there was another plane ready to go, as soon as the lawyers made sure there would be no one on board. This is what the refugees would have wanted. Their goal has always been to go to Rwanda. You just couldn’t get there by dinghy.
Yvette Cooper reprized her role from Monday. His outrage at the way the government is shaming the country is palpable. She was the model of clarity as she dismantled Vacant’s worn-out arguments. There was a reason Israel backed out of its people-carrying program. And it wasn’t because it was unethical. Although it is. It’s because it didn’t work. So how about setting up safe routes and cooperating more with France. Priti flinched at the thought of doing anything with France. Wait for someone to tell him it’s just across the Channel.
“We have to strike the right tone,” Vacant said. His lack of self-awareness is mind-boggling. She’s not even an intelligent narcissist. “And a system cannot be impractical and expensive.” Except it’s possible, of course. Truly, she is a philosopher queen. If it is possible to be wrong, she will find a way. Ingenious, if nothing else.
Much of the rest of the session was spent with Tory backbenchers trying to persuade themselves that the more bestial they were to refugees, the nicer they were. Dialectical refugeeism. Schrödinger’s Strangers. Peter Bone said there was a difference between traffickers and smugglers. And that anyone who slipped through deserved to die.
Others have just languished in foreign courts. They have not yet learned the difference between foreign and international. Or that the UK was one of the main founders of the European Convention on Human Rights. Jonathan Gullis seemed unaware that the human rights tribunal was written into the Good Friday Agreement. And he’s parliamentary private secretary to Brandon Lewis. The Northern Ireland Secretary. Really, the wankocracy is in overdrive. Heading remorselessly towards the wall.