It’s so uplifting to read the peerless output of Quentin Letts in The Times – formerly of The Daily Mail – these days, both his political sketches and theatre reviews. I imagine most MPs must shudder when they see him covering debates in the chamber of the House of Commons, fearing what he might write about them. A piece in today’s Times, the section on Philip Davies MP highlighted in bold:
They had just finished a long and repetitive debate attacking a hollow-voiced Chris Grayling when we had a blast of something icier. Something almost Trollopian. Speaker Bercow made a sombre announcement that he had received “a letter this afternoon from the registrar of criminal appeals” advising him that Fiona Onasanya (Ind, Peterborough) had failed in an appeal against her conviction for perverting the course of justice.
As Mr Bercow explained — there was a touch of the black cap to his tone — this meant that the not so Hon Ms Onasanya, fresh from doing some porridge, will be subjected to the new petition process that allows voters to sack dodgy MPs.
Silence fell on the chamber. Turkeys contemplated their giblets. They little like being reminded that their ranks now demonstrably contain a criminal element.
As the Brexit deadline nears and the House fills its days with odds and ends and navel fluff, there is a tetchy unease in Westminster. Parliamentary niceties are fraying. MPs insult one another and become huffy when upbraided for their crossness. The smallest disagreement triggers terrible bateyness. Our rulers are on edge.
“You are not telling the truth!” shouted the SNP’s Joanna Cherry at Mr Grayling, the transport secretary, in yet another discussion of his department’s bunglings. Ms Cherry, who loves to declare that she is a “senior lawyer”, was obliged to withdraw the allegation. She did so with characteristic ill grace. Mr Bercow said that it simply would not do to impute dishonour to MPs.
“Disingenuous!” said Michael Docherty-Hughes (SNP, West Dunbartonshire) repeatedly about Philip Davies (C, Shipley). Clever Mr Docherty-Hughes is a springy, taut wee bantam, a delight to the ear with his accent a marvel of trills and rolled Rs and high-pitched pinkings. But had he not gone way over the top yesterday as, time and again, he accused the Shipley man of lies?
Mr Davies may be an annoyance to those who do not share his trenchant right-wing views but all he had done was to propose a ten-minute rule motion for the equalisation for women in the succession of hereditary titles. Such motions almost never become law and this one was a work of such reactionary fiendishness that its co-signatories included Harriet Harman and Jo Swinson. Yet it had sent Mr Docherty-Hughes into orbit faster than an Elon Musk rocket. Most peculiar.
Were they children, you’d tell them they were tired. Is Brexit to blame? Or is it the lack of interesting business on the order paper, which flows from the government being so powerless? The debate about Mr Grayling was a last-minute addition, bumping less compelling business down the agenda. You slightly sensed that Mr Bercow agreed to the debate — Mr Grayling’s shoulders gave a pitiable little sag when he heard it announced — because he was bored. Like the rest of us, he yearned for something more interesting than Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, plodding her way through the Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) (No 2) Bill.
The Grayling debate was secured by Alan Brown (SNP, Kilmarnock and Loudoun), who is not the easiest to understand. Did he accuse Mr Grayling of “misleading the House”? That would be another infraction. The new Commons clerk screwed up his eyes as he tried to decipher what Mr Brown was saying. Unable to do so, he let the matter pass. Later, addressing Mr Grayling, this Mr Brown — whom Mr Bercow used to call “Mr Broon” — hooted that “we need clarity!” The clerk would agree.
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