Knife crime beset PMQs. It was a horrific blue-on-blue bloodbath as Tory backstabbers queued up to play the role of Brutus and hack Caesar to death.
David Davis shoved in his stiletto and claimed that the PM’s lack of integrity would ‘paralyse proper government.’ Mind you, he said that six months ago.
‘I thank him very much for the point he has made again,’ said Boris.
Super-sulky Tim Loughton asked, ‘does he think there are any circumstances in which he should resign?’
Boris fought back. ‘The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he’s been handed a colossal mandate, is to keep going.’
Gary Sambrook was savage and blunt. ‘Take responsibility and resign,’ said the member for Birmingham, Northfield.
At this, Labour MPs erupted into applause which spared Boris the job of replying. The Speaker Hoyle leapt up angrily. ‘You ought to be embarrassed by clapping. This is not a debating society!’
Sir Keir Starmer put in a performance of rare verve and power. His lines were excellent. He called the newly formed Tory cabinet, ‘the charge of the lightweight brigade.’ And he dismissed the rest of the government as ‘a Z-list cast of nodding dogs.’
The SNP’s Ian Blackford wanted Boris to quit on the floor of the house. Straight away. With immediate effect. He regretted that the leadership issue had diverted attention away from ‘the Tory cost of living crisis and soaring inflation’. And he asked the PM ‘when will he finally pick up his pen and write his resignation letter?’ At which point he spotted Boris scribbling in his pad. ‘Or perhaps that’s what he’s doing now.’
‘Actually,’ said Boris, ‘I was jotting notes about his question which was excellent: it was about the economy.’
Boris had some good news to impart which he squeezed into his answers where possible. A tax-cut effective from today. Extra help for hard-up families. And new jobs for half a million workers who were formerly on welfare.
The tastiest dagger was flourished at the end. Sajid Javid made a personal statement about his resignation as Health Secretary. The speech was a brackish mixture of self-pity and accusation. He presented himself as a holy martyr who had to fight prejudice all his life (while reminding us that he’s a financial wizard and all-round genius). At school he was told that ‘boys like him’ shouldn’t study maths. In the City he lacked ‘the right school tie’ – although that didn’t prevent him rising to the top in his mid-20s. And when he married ‘the love of his life’ he did so in defiance of his community. And yet he’s a humble sort of hero. He entered politics ‘to do something not to be somebody.’ And that’s why he prizes collective responsibility – except when he doesn’t prize collective responsibility. He said that he’d got rather peeved recently by having to defend the government in public only to discover that he was the frontman for a cover-up. Poor old Saj. ‘I will never,’ he said imploringly, ‘never risk losing my integrity’. But what integrity? A moment later he urged the entire cabinet to assassinate their chief.
‘The problem starts at the top,’ he said. ‘And they have decided to remain in cabinet and they will have their own reasons… not doing something is an active decision.’
He finished with a blokey reminder of his kitchen-sink values. ‘Being a good father, husband, son and citizen is enough for me,’ claimed the arch-plotter. Then again, he may be the arch-plodder. His speaking voice is weak and drab. His delivery seems halting and uncertain. Blunders recurred continually and he kept saying ‘the benefit of doubt’ when he meant ‘the benefit of the doubt’. Wit and surprise are entirely missing from his range of effects. This full oration should be played at SureStart centres to help the toddlers settle down for their afternoon nap.
Above all, the Saj needs to glance at history. Michael Heseltine stabbed Mrs Thatcher in 1990 and killed off his own chances of entering No. 10. And Brutus never became Rome’s leader. Two years after knifing Caesar, he was dead.