Boris Johnson’s manner is reminiscent of a batsman who has worked out how to punish a moderate attack and is starting to enjoy himself.
The danger for him is that he will be lured into overconfidence. It is possible he will get himself out one day by trying to play a reverse sweep.
Jeremy Corbyn trundled in and lobbed a series of slow questions about Universal Credit, which he claims has increased poverty and should be abolished.
Johnson retorted that there has been a massive increase in employment, accused his opponent of wanting to keep people in the welfare trap, remarked that Corbyn has been voted the most popular Labour leader ever by Labour members, and added that “these sentiments are warmly shared by many on this side of the House”.
The Prime Minister treated Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, with equal disdain, comparing him to “a rocketing pheasant”, telling him and his colleagues to “concentrate on the day job” rather than call over and over again for another referendum, and remarking that “we support manufacturing in Scotland – they support nothing except manufacturing grievances”.
But to backbenchers on both sides of the House, the Prime Minister went into benevolent monarch mode, graciously pleased to concur with every reasonable request, dispensing assurances with royal affability.
What a change has come over the House since the general election. Brexit, as Michael Gove remarked during Cabinet Office questions, will happen in ten days’ time.
We find ourselves in the calm after the storm. The great contentions which dominated Westminster from the referendum in 2016 to the general election at the end of 2019 have died down, and peace has settled over the House.
The Government has a secure majority, no dissenting voices are heard from its own benches and the Prime Minister is no longer the embattled figure who marched through a rebellion by some of the most renowned parliamentarians on his own benches towards an election which the Opposition parties were for some time shrewd enough to deny him.
The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, again kept PMQs to the half hour it is timetabled to last – inexpressibly refreshing after the excesses of his predecessor, who allowed things to drag on and on.
So order reigns at Westminster. How long before people complain it’s too damn quiet?
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Author: Andrew Gimson
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