Imagine you were starving and skint and a friend invited you out for dinner – their treat.
But when you meet up, they’ve forgotten where the restaurant is. When you eventually find it your mate slaps all the waiting staff on the bum, constantly breaks wind and then admits forgetting his wallet (Something I could imagine Boris actually doing).
Would you be within your rights to argue that what was initially a good idea had swiftly become a disaster?
This is the conundrum faced by Sir Keir Starmer every week, though I doubt he would count Boris Johnson as a friend – despite seeing him for lunch every Wednesday.
For the past six months, Starmer’s dance with Johnson has gone something like this. The Prime Minister comes up with an idea to tackle coronavirus. Labour, wanting to appear like a sober, collaborative government-in-waiting at a time of national crisis, backs it.
Quickly the plan goes belly up – and Sir Keir appears at the despatch box to ask why that is. Johnson, in response, accuses Starmer’s well-intentioned scrutiny as “sniping from the sidelines”.
After months of this carry on, it seems that today Starmer finally reached the end of his tether. Accused once more of refusing to back Britain and row in behind the Conservative government, Sir Keir snapped that “the idea that anyone asking the prime minister a question is undermining the measures is wearing a bit thin.”
“We’ll do everything we can to save every job,” Johnson insisted. This came despite his own chancellor – the man many Tories are eyeing up to lead them into the next election – clearly stating that it would not be possible to rescue every job just last week.
Starmer then asked why Luton had been the only place to both enter and exit a local lockdown.
Eager to seize on a rare success story, Johnson lauded the good folk of Luton for having “pulled together”. He apparently ignored the fact that the natural conclusion one must take from such a comment is that people from Northumberland to Blackburn, Gateshead to Guiseley are reckless, lawless rule-breakers.
What’s more, it was all a bit rich coming from a prime minister who – just yesterday – could not remember what his own lockdown restrictions were in the North East.
Ian Blackford made a fair assessment of Johnson’s modus operandi, accusing him of “yapping, bumbling and mumbling” but not actually answering any questions. Indeed, Johnson’s refusal to answer questions spurred the Speaker to step in and remind him that it was Prime Minister’s Questions and not Leader of the Opposition’s Questions.
And it was the Speaker, the brusque Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who really made headlines in the chamber this morning with a stinging attack on Johnson.
He began the session by condemning the government for its “totally unsatisfactory” behaviour and “disregard for the house” in introducing new coronavirus laws without scrutiny from the Commons.
It was clear and stinging message to Johnson (and one would imagine Cummings) to stop making a mockery of the House of Commons.
It was a tense argument between the executive and parliament, echoing 2019.The ghost of John Bercow still sends shivers down Brexit loving Tory spines and Hoyle seems to be channeling his bellicose spirit.
Hoyle even chucked in a sly comment about reopening A& E in his constituency, Chorley, a decision he hates and blames Johnson personally for it. Even ankle-biter Bercow wouldn’t have done that.
The PM has enemies on all sides yet a knife from the back will always do more damage.
It was a question from Jacob Young (Con) that summed Johnson up. Young announced that Teeside is to become home to Britain’s first Hydrogen Transport Hub.
It was an apt question, but like the awful dinner guest, Johnson was left blowing hot air.
See you at same time next week. What are the odds Boris forgets his wallet… again.