Weekly Column

Topsy turvy Wednesday

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I spent half an hour of my life (which I will never get back) sitting behind Boris Johnson in an overcrowded and overheated Committee Room to hear Harriet Harman quiz him on exactly which events he had attended in No 10 during Lockdown, what advice he had been given about each one; and what the same (or was it different?) advisers had told him to say about said events in the Commons. As a result did he ‘deliberately and recklessly” mislead the House; or was it perhaps inadvertent, and therefore blameless? It was like a court of law with great folios of documents and backbench MPs trying to sound like Rumpole of the Old Bailey quizzing the ex-PM on whether or not the birthday cake in the shape of a Union Jack had or had not been eaten, and if so by whom? The Committee may have been pompous and silly, but the prime witness (Bozza) was floundering. Let’s just get this thing over with. After all he has lost his role and his good name already.Meanwhile he and a bunch of the usual suspects were busy trying to stir up a rebellion over the Windsor Framework. It’s a lot better than the Northern Irish Protocol for which they had all voted, but to the strict ideologue there were still a few hidden bits of EU influence. For Heaven’s sake, colleagues, “get a life.” Brexit has happened. The end result is pretty good, if not perhaps perfect. We need to get Stormont sitting and decent power sharing; we need to preserve the Good Friday Agreement and peace in the Province; and sniping and sneering over real or imagined ideological shortcomings in the only deal on the table risks all that.The SNP are simultaneously in (probably terminal) meltdown. Their internal fighting makes Tory battles of recent years look like minor playground squabbles. Their only person of any consequence- Nicola Surgeon - is gone; and none of her hopeful replacements figure anywhere on the wider political stage. Her husband, coincidentally Chief Executive of the SNP, has resigned over all kinds of alleged mis-doings; and her allocation of a huge (and much delayed) ferry contract to a political ally is coming under renewed scrutiny. I think they are toast.PMQs should have been an easy win for Sir Keir, but as usual these days, he was a total flop. The PM’s income tax return, which show what we all knew already - namely that he and his Missus are jolly rich - could have caused a few flutterings in the holier than thou breasts of the Labour Party luvvies. And all of the above should have been fertile ground for Starmer; but instead he started droning on about crime, which Rishi easily batted off. The truth is that his greatest moment was as Crown Prosecutor and he loves going back to that old comfort zone, albeit striking few chords with the electorate in doing so.There’s a war on, you know, and one which could so easily escalate with catastrophic consequences. We are battling against inflation, which took a tick up unexpectedly because of food and drink prices; the NHS is in some degree of crisis depending on which analyst you listen to; education, transport, strikes, defence spending. These and so many other issues of huge importance in all of our lives are swirling and bubbling. Yet Parliament was busying itself with Union Jack cakes and who had eaten them; with the fine print of a relatively obscure agreement with the EU; with Scot Nat internal turmoil, and with some rather obscure crime statistics which actually proved not a lot.“Come on, guys. Let’s get real” as they say in the movies.

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James Gray
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March 23, 2023