I’m not in the habit of watching PMQ’s (Prime Minister’s Questions for those not in the UK) as I find the continual posturing, braying, shouting and paper-waving quite annoying – but today I made an exception. Having read the (very short) Sue Gray report – or what’s left of it after the MET got their mitts on it – I decided to tune in to see what happened. The report is limited but quite damning in some ways – she lists a total of 16 ‘gatherings’ which took place in or around No 10, either in the office or the garden or in the Johnsons’ flat. 12 of these events are now being investigated by the police. Gray makes no specific mention of Johnson himself but talks about the culture of No 10 and events being ‘difficult to justify.’ She makes reference to the sacrifices the public were being asked to make and is obviously quite peeved at being asked not to publish it in full. Before PMQs the BBC were outside Parliament interviewing MP’s – they didn’t find any Tories to speak to apart from one who wasn’t an MP but everyone else was unanimous in saying that Johnson was a disgrace and should resign.
And at 3.30, out he comes, managing a full three minutes of remorse. He was sorry. Mistakes were made. There will be a shake-up at No 10. He was grateful to Sue Gray for her report. He acknowledged that there was public anger. And that was that. Like a reluctant teenager forced to make conversation with an aging aunt at a party, he swiftly moved on to more pleasant things – basically, the usual suspects. Didn’t he make a good job of Brexit? And isn’t everything going to be so much better now? Wasn’t the vaccine rollout great? And isn’t it time we turned our attention to Ukraine?
It was pathetic. Frankly, it was nauseating and for once, Keir Starmer said everything I wanted him to say. Johnson is a disgrace, he has brought his office into disrepute, he has (whatever the euphemism is that you have to use instead of saying ‘lied’) and he must resign. Johnson replied, now in full fighting mode, all aura of repentance long since evaporated. Enter Theresa May. I was never a fan of hers but one of the effects of Johnson’s premiership has been to make her look like a solid and principled leader. He should have known the rules, understood the rules and applied the rules, she said. Either he didn’t, or he didn’t bother – which was it? It was a good intervention, but the SNP leader went for the jugular and ended his speech saying the PM lied. The Speaker told him to retract; he refused. Rinse and repeat four times, after which Ian Blackford came out with some convoluted form of words which got him off the hook. But he’s right. Johnson lied; and I can’t believe how long he’s managed to hold on to his office given the blindingly obvious facts. He lied.
After 20 minutes of watching this farce open-mouthed, I switched it off.
On a lighter note, we’ve discovered a real gem of a programme on BBC Scotland called Roaming in the Wild. Most ‘adventure’ programmes nowadays feature a bunch of people thrown together with elements of competition, some contrived ups and downs, an end to be gained within a certain length of time and some potential conflicts between the participants. There must be triumph and disaster, there will be manufactured tension and a ticking clock. Frankly, I’m sick of it. But this programme has absolutely none of that; it’s just two guys off exploring Scotland and having a great time while they do it. They may or may not travel the length of Loch Ness in a paddle boat (spoiler alert – they don’t), they may or may not ski across the Grampians and spend the night in a snow hole, or paddle down the River Esk or hike across the mountains in North-East Scotland but whatever they do it’s interesting and above all, fun. They have some great laughs and the scenery is brilliant. So I recommend that. It’s a good antidote to all ‘structured reality’ shows – and above all, to PMQs.