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PMQs sketch: That second when von der Leyen finds gammon on the menu


icture the scene in Le Berlaymont, that gleaming glass and marble edifice to European integration in Brussels, at 11.59am when Ursula von der Leyen tuned in to the Parliament Channel for clues about what her VIP dinner visitor is considering.

Along with her high consultants peering intently on the display screen over titanium-rimmed severe spectacles, she turns up the quantity to listen to Sir Lindsay Hoyle announce in his greatest Mr Carson increase: “And now, Prime Minister’s Questions.”

The digital camera zooms into the gammon options of Sir Edward Leigh, face as scarlet as Santa’s cloak, urging the PM to “make one final effort” for a deal tonight. Think about the approving nods amongst Mrs von der Leyen’s smartly-suited staff at his opening phrases, just for their faces fading because the arch-Brexiteer labored himself as much as his actual  level. “The EU ought to know this,” thundered Sir Edward. “If he can not safe that deal for us, this parliamentary get together will again him to the hilt, as a result of energy comes with unity.”

The consultants across the TV set in Brussels will in all probability have shuddered involuntarily and reached for a chilled glass of Chablis. Absolutely the British PM will give quick shrift to such an antediluvian.

Cue gasps because the digital camera swerves to provide them a primary close-up of the Prime Minister rising to answer.  Boris Johnson was on his scruffiest, gurning type, hair jutting out madly, pores and skin a pinkish tribute to Sir Edward’s gammon, and mouth grinning toothily.

“He’s fully proper {that a} whole lot remains to be there to be executed,” beamed Boris. “I stay up for discussing it with Commissioner von der Leyen tonight.” Sympathetic glances could have flickered over to Mrs von der Leyen on the considered her three-course ordeal.  

Johnson carried on: “Whether or not the brand new preparations resemble Australia’s or these of Canada, I’ve completely little question that from January 1 this nation goes to prosper mightily.” Tory MPs cheered wildly.

A ripple of hope could have swept the room in Brussels when Sir Lindsay knowledgeable the Home that Boris’s potential successor, a pro-European Labour MP, was taking the stage.  “And now, over to the Chief of the Opposition, the Rt Hon Keir Starmer.”  

He would possibly as properly have introduced “and now for one thing utterly completely different” as a result of Sir Keir took half by hostage video, standing in entrance of a whitewashed bed room wall at dwelling.  Labour’s chief talked via a synthetic smile, like a presenter of an unfunny Comedian Aid night time, for his opening phrases, welcoming the vaccine.  Then it was a severe face as he turned to Brexit.

“A 12 months in the past the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Road and promised the nation – these have been his phrases – ‘a everlasting break from speaking about Brexit’. [beat] How’s that going?”

Johnson stood up sniggering about his opponent’s “exile in Islington”.   He then chipped in some jibes about Starmer’s “sphinx-like” silence on whether or not Labour would vote for or towards a Brexit deal.

Starmer rebuked him sternly: “It’s Camden, not Islington.”  Mrs von der Leyen’s consultants could have exchanged furtive bewildered glances. Did the British not perceive they face hunger when the ports collapse?

Sir Keir mocked the PM for his “usual, usual” routine of deflecting from answering questions.  However it quickly turned obvious that the Labour chief was deflecting consideration from his personal lack of ability to say what deal Labour would assist.

“He informed the British those that he had an oven-ready deal,” stated Sir Keir. “Why ought to anybody who trusted the Prime Minister, together with his Chancellor, apparently consider a phrase that he says now.”

Johnson watched this with mouth agape in a pantomime show of concern. The oven-ready deal, he blustered, referred to January’s Withdrawal Settlement and never the commerce and future relations bundle being jawed over in Brussels.

Starmer quipped: “I see – Get Brexit Performed simply meant the primary a part of it, the straightforward bit. I do not keep in mind that being written on the bulldozer.”  

Johnson challenged him to say if Labour can be for or towards “a deal on Australian phrases” which is No 10’s euphemism for a WTO naked minimal, aka no deal.

“The Prime Minister talks about indecision,” yelped Sir Keir. “That is the reality of it: He is completely caught and dithering between the deal he is aware of we want and the compromise his backbenchers will not let him do.”

Starmer hoped {that a} deal would flip up “like one among his newspaper columns …. on the final minute” however predicted many roles can be misplaced find out. “Safe the deal, Prime Minister, you promised it.” And Labour’s place? “My get together will vote within the nationwide curiosity,” stated the Sphinx.

The issue was management, stated Starmer, and the PM had executed 15 U-turns already.  He ought to hearken to the warnings from the CBI and the NFU.  He bowled with a googly: How lots of the promised 50,000 new customs officers can be in publish on January 1 to wave lorries via Dover?

It was the PM’s flip to deflect.  The Authorities had put “84 million into supporting customs brokers”, no matter than means, however we by no means did study what number of officers had been employed.

“The Prime Minister has no thought,” equipped Sir Keir. “Both he doesn’t know or he doesn’t care.”    

Johnson laughed that Starmer was “deafeningly silent” on how he would vote on any Brexit deal.  He pictured Sir Keir “whereas he places a chilly towel spherical his head, misplaced in thought, tries to work out what his place is”.


Labour chief Keir Starmer joined by video hyperlink

/ AFP by way of Getty Photos )

Johnson completed with a message that may have been understood clearly even amongst Mrs von der Leyen’s trembling and shocked officers. “Whether or not the result is Canada, whether or not it’s Australia, Mr Speaker, we can be taking again management!”

Alone of the bewildered EU functionaries within the fashionable suite at Brussels, the Fee President can have been unfazed.  Mrs von der Leyen is that uncommon creature, a eurocrat who spent a formative 12 months in Britain within the late Seventies, an period when Monty Python and Benny Hill crammed the TV schedules and British politics was virtually as chaotic as it’s at the moment.  

In different phrases, she understands completely the principle cultural references of her visitor at this night’s soiree.

However it’s simple to think about a trembling voice from the again of her workplace asking aloud the thought all of them share:  “Why ever did we allow them to be a part of?”

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