PMQs Review: The one where they congratulated every football team
- Credit: Parliament
A session in which the beautiful game took centre stage, Ian Blackford made a right royal gaffe and everyone ignored Brexit again.
You could imagine identical scenes in both Theresa May's and Jeremy Corbyn's PMQs plotting rooms this morning as their respective advisors explained there was a big football match last night and it would look good if they made a clever allegorical reference to it.
Both were almost certainly clueless. Theresa May is a cricket fan (did she mention she liked Geoff Boycott?) while Corbyn pretends to be an Arsenal supporter while once calling for it to be boycotted after it accepted sponsorship from the Israeli tourist board.
Hence the barrel-scraping banter reminiscent of an area manager breaking the ice at an away-day in a provincial Travelodge. "In view of the amazing performance of Liverpool last night, perhaps the prime minister could take some tips from Jürgen Klopp on how to get a good result in Europe," said Corbyn.
"I actually think that when we look at the Liverpool win over Barcelona last night, what it shows is that when everyone says it's all over, that your European opposition have got you beat, the clock is ticking down, it's time to concede defeat, actually we can still secure success if everyone comes together," responded May, strangling the metaphor to within an inch of its life. Also, note that the EU is now "opposition" and not "partners with whom we want a deep and special relationship",
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But enough of that! Now every MP wanted a congratulations for their local football team. Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde most notable for once being interviewed by police over allegations he got a dog drunk, rose to demand recognition of AFC Fylde, who have reached both the National League Play-Off and FA Trophy Finals.
"Can I say to my honourable friend he's absolutely right to congratulate AFC Fylde - who I believe are known as the Coasters," said May, who had almost certainly never heard of the club until today.
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"We wish them the best for their play-off final at Wembley." Menzies was delighted.
But still they came! Paul Blomfield (Labour, Sheffield Central) wanted a congratulations for Premier League new boys Sheffield United and their manager Chris Wilder. May did the honours. She did not say what she believed they were known as (the Blades - something she should watch out for).
Why stop there? What about Arbroath, Scottish League One winners? Longridge Town, who have taken the North West Counties League First Division North? Barking & Dagenham, champions of the Southern Counties Under-11s Girls' Cup?
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, to his credit, focused on Brexit, although his question was somewhat overshadowed by a right royal gaffe.
He mistakenly congratulated the "Duke and Duchess of Wessex" when congratulating Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, on the birth of their baby boy.
MPs hadn't laughed so much since Dennis Skinner's side-splitting intervention before the last Queen's speech, in about 2003. One Scottish voice was heard clearly shouting "it's the Barchester Chronicles!", an arcane and frankly bizarre reference to a little-remembered 1992 BBC drama series.
"I had hoped he would join me in congratulating the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton on the birth of their child," said May.
Blackford said: "A month of Tory talks with Labour and we are still no further forward. The clock is ticking down, and yet the prime minister is silent.
"When exactly will this House have an update from the prime minister?"
May responded: "We are indeed talking with the Labour Party. I think there is a very clear message that was given to this House last week from the public - it is that they want us to get on and deliver Brexit, and I think it is absolutely right that we do so." That's right: she is still interpreting a clear swing to the Liberal Democrats and Greens as evidence people want Brexit.
Finally, Andrea Jenkyns, the headbangers' headbanger who appears to genuinely believe Britain is at war with a country called Europe, once again turned her ire on May.
"She has failed to deliver on her promises, we have lost 1,300 councillors and sadly the public no longer trust her to run the Brexit negotiations. Isn't it time to step aside and let someone new lead our party, our country and the negotiations?," she asked.
"Actually, this is not an issue about me and it's not an issue about her," May responded. "If it were an issue about me and how I vote, we would already have left the European Union." Jenkyns, of course, is one of those Brexiteers Against Brexit who have voted May's deal down at every turn.
Oh, and Jeremy Corbyn? He ignored Brexit again and focused on the NHS. Isn't it a good thing and shouldn't it have more money, he said. We've given it more money, said May, The whole thing was barely worth the length of this sentence and everyone was grateful when the final whistle went.
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