PMQs Review: The one with the sign language interpreter

Boris Johnson speaking at prime minister's questions in the House of Commons (Pic: Parliament)

Boris Johnson speaking at prime minister's questions in the House of Commons (Pic: Parliament) - Credit: Parliament

This week's prime minister's questions was the first to have a sign language interpreter, meaning the deaf can suffer it too

Anybody who wished to could log on to Parliament's website and watch proceedings be simultaneously translated by a man in a sharp suit - although what the sign is for the audible dissent from the Tory backbenches at speaker Lindsay Hoyle's announcement of the innovation is unclear. As was quite what their problem was with sign language. Perhaps they got it confused with Esperanto.

Whether anybody would bother coming back after witnessing this week's proceeding is uncertain too. Although, unusually, Jeremy Corbyn picked a good topic to go in on - the damning comments made by Claire O'Neill after being sacked as president of the forthcoming climate summit - he still blew it by, well, being Jeremy Corbyn. Why is he still here?

"My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises - whether it is voters, world leaders, ministers, employees or indeed, to family members - is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it and make sure the money is in the bank," O'Neill had said, but rather than drilling into the comments consistently, Corbyn veered all over the place, eventually falling back on comments made in Johnson's Telegraph dispatches years ago casting doubt on his belief in climate change.

"Considering his monumental failure in advance of [climate conference] COP26, isn't it really just a continuation of his climate change denial statements that he was regularly making up until 2015?," asked Corbyn.

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Johnson said Corbyn was "talking absolute nonsense" and defended the government's agenda, adding: "We lead the world in going for a zero-carbon approach. His own approach is utterly unclear and has been condemned by the GMB as a disaster for the UK economy.

"He would confiscate people's cars and prevent them from having foreign holidays." Which is, of course, absolute nonsense itself. Corbyn isn't against foreign holidays. He had one during the Brexit referendum.

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The Labour leader also noted two former Conservative leaders had turned down the conference job, saying "maybe it could be third time lucky" and suggesting former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith for the role. Duncan Smith has already lost one title thanks to Corbyn, that of worst-ever leader of the opposition. He shook his head at the suggestion.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tried a different tack. "In the first few days of Brexit Britain, this prime minister has sacked an official, taken an isolationist approach to trade and banned the press from a Downing Street briefing," he said. "Is he intentionally trying to impersonate Donald Trump?".

Johnson dismissed the notion, insisting he had a "passionate, internationalist, globalist, open, outward-looking approach" and falling back on his trusted and almost certainly counter-productive tactic of reminding people that the SNP favour Scottish independence. "There is only one party in this country that has nationalist in their name, that's them, they would break up the most successful political partnership of the last 300 years," he blasted.

Blackford looked unimpressed. "The prime minister doesn't even know the name of our party," he responded. It's the Scottish NATIONAL Party.

Finally, regular readers will be keen to know what the most pathetically obsequious question from a Tory backbencher was this week. Step forward Darren Henry, new MP for Broxtowe and a considerable downgrade on his predecessor Anna Soubry.

"Does the prime minister agree with me that this Conservative government is committing to fulfilling its manifesto pledges and will deliver for the NHS?," he probed. But the sign language interpreter struggled to convey the unique sound of a man so publicly robbing himself of whatever dignity he once had.

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