PMQs verdict: Johnny Bravo squares off against a caged Big Bird

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<p>Boris Johnson speaking from Downing Street at PMQS</p> (Sky News)

Boris Johnson speaking from Downing Street at PMQS

(Sky News)

Today was a historic occasion in the House of Commons as the UK Prime Minister was beamed into the chamber on official Government telescreens.

The spectacle was more Big Bird than Big Brother, with the PM sporting the look of a freshly hatched chick.

After a stressful week of bitter infighting, Number 10 aides had apparently taken matters into their own hands and locked Boris in a cell.

Blink three times if you need us to send a rescue party Prime Minister!

He appeared pallor-faced and spoke through an echoey mic to reassure the nation he would return “in due course”.

From his eggshell grey dungeon the hostage grinned, before the Labour henpecking and Tory fawning started.

“Press the button Andrew,” said Sir Lindsay Hoyle as homeworker Andrew Rosindell MP zoomed in from Romford mouthing silent questions.

In scenes reminiscent of the House of Lords, he replied: “Right, thank you, sorry…”

In contrast to the PM’s messy hairdo, Sir Keir Starmer was sporting his best Johnny Bravo coiffure – not a strand out of place.

<p>Keir Starmer during PMQs</p>PRU/AFP via Getty Images

Keir Starmer during PMQs

PRU/AFP via Getty Images

Fresh from banishing his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn from the parliamentary Labour Party, Sir Keir sent his “best wishes” to the Prime Minister and “all those across the country who are doing the right thing by following the rules and self-isolating”.

(PS. That doesn’t mean you Margaret Ferrier, the suspended SNP MP, who asked a question by “audio only” at her first PMQs since breaking covid travel rules. One can only assume Ms Ferrier was having a technological “blip”.)

Talking of Scots, the hot topic of the day was devolution.

“So why did the Prime Minister tell his MPs this week that Scottish devolution is, in his words, a disaster?" said Sir Keir in his opening question.

The PM accused the “Scottish Nationalist Party” of “constantly” campaigning for the break-up of the UK, adding: “To turn devolution, otherwise a sound policy for which I myself personally benefited when I was running London - but turn devolution into a mission to break up the UK. That, in my view, would be a disaster.”

Mother Hen Sir Lindsay was not having any of it: “Could I just say it’s the Scottish National Party not the Nationalist Party. Otherwise the phones will be ringing long and hard…”

The Prime Minister, speaking underwater, interrupted: “Mr Speaker I am so sorry, they are national but not nationalist. I see, right.”

The fluffy chick smiled and nodded at his own joke. His Tory brood liked that one.

Sir Lindsay, not so much. He gestured towards Big Brother Bird Boris on the screen saying: “We can play pedantics another time.”

Sir Serious Keir then pecked at the PM, telling him: “The single biggest threat to the future of the United Kingdom is the Prime Minister every time he opens his mouth on this.”

Big Bird shook his head at this, before Johnny Bravo went on to call for greater devolution of powers.

Mr Johnson hit back by conjuring the spectre of Tony Blair and pointed at Sir Keir: “Will he say so now that he opposes the breakup of the United Kingdom?”

Sir Keir soon changed tack and turned to the financial support for people self-isolating, asking the PM if he could survive on statutory sick pay of £95 a week or £13 a day.

Mr Johnson looked down to his stock lines from the Ministry of Truth and replied: “The package that we have in place to protect people and support people throughout this crisis has been outstanding and exceptional.”

Starmer’s sassiest strike of the exchange was when he rebuked the PM for accusing him of not supporting NHS test and trace.

“I’m not going to take lectures on supporting. The lockdown measures were passed the other week with Labour votes. 32 of his own MPs broke a three-line whip and I hear that about 50 of them have joined a WhatsApp group to work out how they are going to oppose him next time round. He should be thanking us for our support, not criticising.”

He also struck him with another blow over the £21 million of taxpayers' money used to pay a “go-between” to deliver lucrative contracts to the Department of Health.

He added: “I remind the Prime Minister that a few weeks ago he couldn't find that amount of money for free school meals for kids over half-term.”

<p>Boris Johnson at PMQs</p>PA

Boris Johnson at PMQs


Mr Johnson said Sir Keir initially urged for the removal of "blockages" in the procurement process to secure personal protective equipment (PPE), adding: “We shifted heaven and earth to get 32 billion items of PPE into this country. I'm very proud of what has been achieved.”

Johnson quickly went from Tweety Pie to Angry Bird and parroted one of his favourite attack lines: “It’s entirely typical I may say of Captain Hindsight that he now attacks our efforts to procure PPE.”

Sir Steely replied: “He talks about hindsight, I say catch-up.”

He blasted the PM over the National Audit Office’s report today which highlighted £10.5 billion worth of contracts were handed out without competitive tender and "suppliers with political connections were 10 times more likely to be awarded contracts".

He said: "Can the Prime Minister give a cast-iron assurance that from now on all Government contracts will be subject to proper process, with full transparency and accountability?"

Mr Johnson [checks notes] replied: “All Government contracts are, of course, going to be published in a due way and are already being published.”

He went on to highlight recommendations from Labour which, he claimed, included a football agent offering to supply ventilators and a historical clothing company whose current range includes “sixteenth century silk bodices”. Ooh errr.

Squawking his favourite line, the PM added: "It is absolutely absurd Captain Hindsight is now once again trying to score party political points by attacking us for moving too fast.”

Soon it was the turn of Parliamentary Pingu Ian Blackford who said the Prime Minister's comments this week about devolution were "not just a slip of the tongue, it was a slip of the Tory mask”.

Only one moment united the chamber today and that was the audio appearance of Ms Ferrier which prompted a resounding groan from MPs.

It signalled her intention to carry on as an MP despite calls to resign even from her own leader Nicola Sturgeon.

The Prime Minister might have resembled a startled bird at times, but there was only one chicken dialling into the chamber.

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