Don’t mention the Russia report!
Boris Johnson’s final Prime Minister's Questions before summer recess went just as well as the rest. That is to say, absolutely terribly. After being eased into the ordeal by Gareth Davies, who congratulated him on surviving a year as Prime Minister, the topic inevitably shifted to the less simple topic of the newly released Russia report.
Johnson’s performances in PMQs often resemble a slow descent into madness, but there was nothing slow about it this time. When asked by Starmer why he sat on the Russia report for so long, Johnson confidently assured him that the UK is the most vigilant country in the world, and plays a leading role in every single international organisation. This might have been a good time to remind the Prime Minister that he is only in power because he promised to get us out of the EU. I’d hardly say that makes us a leading power in the institution.
The back and forth between Johnson and Starmer was suddenly interrupted by a scream from the backbenches – probably the best representation in a while of how the public feels about the current state of the country. The only real voice of the people in parliament. “I think someone wants to go for a cup of tea,” replied the Speaker, elevating PMQs to new heights of madness.
The disruption threw Johnson off his stride, and he lapsed into Brexit talk – his typical form of defence when threatened by a predator. “This is really about pressure from the Islingtonian remainers, who have seized on this report!” he cried. “They’re making it all about Brexit!” Satisfied, Johnson smiled to himself. He’d managed to divert the debate to the one topic he could cope with.
The irony – that he was the only one making it about Brexit – was lost on him. “He simply can’t accept Brexit!” Johnson had worked himself up into quite a state, and his attempts at sentences were beginning to make even less sense than usual. He retreated further into his defensive mechanisms. “TAKE BACK CONTROL!” he blurted, before sitting back down. Presumably he means take back control from the many unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and return it to where it belongs – with one single unelected advisor.
“I can see the Prime Minister is already on his pre-prepared lines” replied Starmer, to approving cheers worthy of an FA Cup final. “The UK is clearly a target for Russian disinformation campaigns.”
Perhaps Johnson himself is one of them. After all, he’s trying his best to tell everyone that lockdown started a week earlier than it actually did.
Johnson appeared visibly furious at the fact that Starmer had brought the debate back to the matter of Russia. How dare he force me to talk about the topic he asked a question about! Can’t he tell I want to talk about Brexit instead? Never one to give up easily, Johnson returned to his favoured topic. “One day he’s in favour of staying in the EU and the next day he’s willing to accept Brexit. The leader of the opposition has more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach!” This would be a bad joke at the best of times, but is even more tasteless considering the fact that just weeks ago, in the midst of a pandemic, so many people flocked to Bournemouth beach that a major incident had to be declared. It’s almost as if Boris Johnson has no regard for the lives of the vulnerable people who were put at risk. Who’d have thought?
After all, he’s trying his best to tell everyone that lockdown started a week earlier than it actually did.
Much to Johnson’s relief, the questions moved on from the Russia report, with Starmer addressing China’s horrific treatment of Uighur Muslims. Blatant human rights violations – this should be easy enough to respond to, right? Not for bumbling Boris. “I’m delighted he now supports the government. But last week he didn’t. And I don’t know how many more questions he’s going to ask.”
Not only did Johnson manage to completely avoid the question, but he also seemed unaware that the job of the Leader of the Opposition includes both challenging the government and asking questions. You’d think an Oxford educated chap such as himself would know better. Johnson’s mind began to wander, and he began to spew a series of figures which may or may not have been true. “40 hospitals, 20,000 police, 50,000 nurses…” Perhaps he should put these on the side of a bus. Then it wouldn’t matter whether they were true or not, because they’re on a bus.
Everyone likes buses.
PMQs limped on for another 20 minutes as Johnson attempted to regain some dignity. It only took a few non-questions from Johnson’s backbench cheerleaders for him to start speaking entirely in soundbites – “it’s time to double down on levelling up and build back better.” Towards the end of the half hour, Nusrat Ghani gave the Prime Minister some suggestions for summer reading, which included A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Perhaps Johnson could take some lessons from Eeyore – “a little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.”