Well, I suppose we should be grateful at least that he wasn’t on the hotline to Vladimir Putin.
Boris Johnson attempted to do PMQs remotely from Chequers yesterday. Predictably, it was only minutes before chaos broke out.
Something about this Prime Minister and technology. They simply don’t mix. He should no more be trusted with a switch than a rhinoceros be allowed to play keepy-uppy with a Ming vase. One dreads to think how he’d have managed aboard Jeff Bezos’s space rocket. Probably he’d have sat on a vital button and sent them all whizzing off into the next galaxy.
The trouble began midway through his exchanges with Sir Keir Starmer. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was struggling to hear him. The PM sounded as though he was speaking into a rusty baked bean can.
Boris Johnson attempted to do PMQs remotely from Chequers yesterday. Predictably, it was only minutes before chaos broke out
‘We are really struggling on the sound level,’ Sir Lindsay complained. Boris froze, panic etched across his face. A man stuck in a lift. ‘Can you hear, me? Can you hear me, Mr Speaker?’ wailed our man in the Shires. It was like a phone conversation with your half-deaf grandmother.
‘Hang on a moment, is it this thing here?’ he said, motioning towards a button. Oh Gawd, what was he about to push?
Possibly sensing that Boris might be on the verge of accidentally powering up Britain’s arsenal of Trident missiles, Sir Lindsay announced that he could now hear him perfectly well.
The PM repeatedly asked whether he should repeat everything he’d said before. Crumbs, we were going to be here until tea time.
‘No, do not worry,’ sighed Sir Lindsay wearily. ‘Just complete the end bit.’ The Commons computer screens will be removed after MPs head off for summer recess today in anticipation of business as usual when Parliament resumes. I can confidently predict there will be no happier person to see the back of them than Sir Lindsay.
Meanwhile, something odd was going on with Sir Keir Starmer. He appeared to be test driving a new persona. Something with go-faster stripes and fluffy dice hanging from the rear view mirror. There were twirls and expansive hand movements. He’d even developed a laugh, albeit as authentic as a bootlicking estate agent’s.
He greeted Boris cockily.
‘Can I wish the ‘‘Chequers One’’ well in isolation? Hahaha!’ he joshed.
The trouble began midway through his exchanges with Sir Keir Starmer. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was struggling to hear him. The PM sounded as though he was speaking into a rusty baked bean can
The PM wasn’t in the mood for this smug new model. He stared back lifelessly from the screen, moody and ashen-faced. I’m not sure isolation suits his temperament. Bet he’s been driving the Chequers gardeners potty. Boris kept playing it straight but his opponent wanted to joust. Odd. Usually it’s the other way around. Starmer attacked the Government’s mixed messages over whether people should isolate when they get pinged. ‘When it comes to creating confusion, the Prime Minister is a super-spreader, haha!’ he hollered with ill-disguised triumph.
Tories MPs looked around quizzically. Westminster’s prize bore was suddenly acting all Mr Showbiz.
Sir Keir had a pop at the Government’s latest three-word slogan – ‘Keep life moving’ – too. Naturally, he had a better one: ‘Get a grip, hahaha!’ Boris rolled his eyes and accused Starmer of ‘feeble stuff’ and trying to score ‘vacuous political points’.
Also remarkably pleased with himself was the SNP’s Ian Blackford. No change there then. He drew from Dominic Cummings’s recent poisoned well of revelations and accused the PM of wanting to sacrifice the over-80s.
The PM called that a gross mischaracterisation of the exchanges that had taken place. The look he shot Blackford could have wilted a cactus.
Incidentally, this session marked PMQs’ 60th anniversary. Harold Macmillan and Hugh Gaitskill were the inaugural combatants. Since you ask, Macmillan’s first answer to a question was ‘Yes, sir’ before resuming his seat.
Oh, for such brevity! Thanks to modern windbaggery, yesterday’s confrontation dragged on nearly 50 minutes.
When it was finally over, Sir Lindsay urged MPs to return to Westminster in the autumn with much shorter questions.
Hear, hear. And please, no more remote PMQs – for Boris’s sake, if not our own.