Politics

Westminster sketch: Dastardly goings-on in Commons as PM rekindles love for Blackford

AT a time of international tensions in Ukraine, and the continuing worldwide fight against coronavirus, Dastardly and Muttley took centre-stage in the House of Commons.

Educated readers will know these were influential characters in the existentialist cartoon-noir thriller, Wacky Races, and their relevance to the current world situation will be made clear later in this sketch. Sorry, will not be made clear later in this sketch.

In the meantime, pour yourself another vat of sherry as we examine proceedings at Prime Minister’s Questions which veered away from parties and back towards the economy – boring!

It came as a godsend to Boris Johnson, a Prime Minister, but opposition leader Keir Starmer clearly thought we’d better get back to brass tacks and, accordingly, placed a metaphorical one on Boris’s seat. This was despite Labour sources earlier telling broadcasters they were going to continue to “punch the bruise”.

First, however, Mr Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, had to address an important aspect of Parliament: lying. This followed accusations made last week about Mr Johnson by the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford.

Thus, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, reading in his homely Lancashire voice as if from a children’s story, explained that, under normal circumstances, “members may not accuse each other of lying or deliberately misleading the House”.

Hence, last week’s pantomime in which Sir Lindsay tried to get Mr Blackford to preface his “misled the House” accusation with the word “inadvertently”. Ian refused and, consequently, was forced to waddle forth into the outer darkness or canteen.

In the meantime, Sir Keir took the opportunity to bring up what he saw as a lie uttered by Boris last week. This was an uncomfortable reference to a failure to prosecute vile sex beast Jimmy Savile while Sir K had been director of public prosecutions.

The Labour leader reminded Tories their two parties had once stood together to defeat fascism. “Now,” he said, “their leader stands in the House of Commons parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try and score cheap political points.”

It was a sombre moment and, reprehensibly, I rather hoped a Tory backbencher in a skew-whiff paper hat might punctuate it with an absent, drunken toot on a party blower. No such toot being forthcoming, Mr Johnson stuck to his guns, pointing out that in 2013 Sir K “apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch”.

With yon tittery-tattery oot the way, the argy-bargy aboot the economy commenced, with Mr Starmer accusing Boris of imposing stealth taxes on the toiling masses.

The PM pointed out the country had “been through the worst pandemic for 100 years”, when older or dead readers might recall nobody did anything about such namby-pamby nonsense and the few left alive just got on with it. Whatever happened to that old British spirit?

After Mr Speaker had to warn the usual unruly Tory ultras off to his right – “Who wants to be the first to leave? Put your hand up!” – Sir Keir compared the PM and his Chancellor to film crime duo Thelma and Louise “as they drive the country off the cliff into the abyss of low growth and high tax”.

Cue hullaballoo, prompting Sir Lindsay to warn a “Mr Gullis” (presumably Jonathan of that ilk; Con) to can it, “otherwise I will ring your mother”.

This maternal intervention gave Boris time to respond to that Thelma and Louise jibe. Result: “Well, I think the right honourable gentleman is Dick Dastardly and Muttley. They’re both of them pulling in different directions and we know they have different views.”

It might be presumed the “they” under advisement were Sir K and his deputy, Angela Rayner. For those not up with current affairs, Mr Dastardly was a moustache-twirling villain known for his famous catchphrase “Curses! Foiled again!” This foiling might cause his canine sidekick, the Muttley cited heretofore, to snicker wheezily, which might also occur when Dastardly explained: “I’m a Dick with a D.”

As so often, I cannot think of a link here to the aforementioned Mr Blackford, who prefaced his attempt to revive the parties scandal by mumbling humbly about how much he respected both Mr Speaker and his chair.

In recent weeks, Boris has suggested that, away from the spotlight, Ian and he were besties, reading poetry to each other and skipping along the beach at sunset hand in hand. Yesterday, Ian publicly ripped into the PM about “treating the House with contempt”. Boris struggled to keep a smirk off his face. He knew they’d make it up later, over a candlelit dinner for two.

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