PMQs Review: The one with something completely different

PUBLISHED: 13:26 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:26 22 January 2020

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)

Parliament

A PMQs on the day Terry Jones’ death was announced brought one Monty Python sketch to mind

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It was during today's PMQs that the sad death of Terry Jones was announced. And one particular Monty Python sketch came to mind, a series two skit called 'Face the Press', in which Eric Idle's interviewer quizzes the Minister for Home Affairs, played by Graham Chapman.

"Minister, in your plan, 'A Better Britain For Us', you promised to build 88 thousand million billion houses a year in the greater London area alone," says Idle. "In fact, you've built only three in the last 15 years."

Chapman's minister (in a dress, obviously) asks if he can answer the question in two ways: "Firstly in my normal voice, and then in a silly, high-pitched whine."

It seems fitting because, firstly, Chapman's pledge wasn't much more less transparently undeliverable than those made by Boris Johnson as he rode to victory in last month's election. And secondly, because it was better than anything on offer in another God-awful session in the Commons.

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"40 new hospitals! 50,000 more nurses! 20,000 more police officers!," is Johnson's stock phrase to any semi-difficult question now, perhaps barked involuntarily like a guileful verbal tic, one based on - to put it very kindly - incredibly inventive mathematics.

It happened again today, as Jeremy Corbyn (and sorry to go over last week's ground again, but why is he still there?) quizzed Johnson on those in work but still needing food banks. 40 new etc, hollered Johnson, as if everybody struggling had the wherewithal to retrain as a nurse or cop.

Corbyn went in today on Universal Credit. The architect of this system, Iain Duncan Smith, wasn't in the chamber to hear it, preferring to treat the BBC's Politics Live viewers to his expert punditry instead. It's worth remembering that last summer "friends of IDS" were busily briefing journalists that he was a shoo-in for deputy prime minister in a Johnson administration, so that's something to cling on to in these dark times.

"Greggs are currently giving 25,000 workers a £300 bonus, but some of those workers on Universal Credit will only be allowed to keep £75 out of that £300," said Corbyn.

"If the prime minister can answer that question and show me that's just and fair, I'll buy him a vegan roll from Greggs myself." Johnson is not a vegan, of course, having recently discovered it precludes cheese consumption.

Johnson replied: "Under this Government people on low pay will be able to keep more of the money that they earn and it is this government that is cutting National Insurance contributions for everybody in the country, it is this government that is increasing the living wage, and it was Mr Corbyn who voted against tax cuts for the low paid to the tune of £7,800." Which, eagle-eyed readers may have spotted - and in another nod to Monty Python - was an answer to something completely different.

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