I Gave it 20 Minutes

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.

Here is the Sue Gray report and here, should you wish to subject yourself to it, are today’s PMQs.

Kirk out

5 thoughts on “I Gave it 20 Minutes

  1. PMQs always make me feel they haven’t grown up since Eton, and it feels like it’s put on as a show.

    Yeah, ‘Roaming In The Wild’ is just amazing! It’s also very amateurish in a good way, particularly the maps.

  2. Well done you, for braving PMQs and toughing it out for 20 minutes: the whole process disgusts me, and I have to be careful with my heart & blood pressure these days, so I will unapologetically abstain. Incidentally, isn’t it curious how it is that the larger the majority, the more weasel-words [and outright lies] the PM can get away with, yet once they’re consigned to the back benches, they become a staunch defender of integrity, roundly condemning the iniquities of their leader. I know ‘benign dictatorship’ is an oxymoron, but there has to be a better way than this.

    On a lighter note, I’ve been enjoying the “Walking with [somebody reasonably well known]” programmes which have been proliferating since lockdown; I like the calm, unhurried pace, the scenery of course, and it gives the presenters a chance to show their real selves, away from their more public personas. Will it encourage ‘ordinary people’ to enjoy the great outdoors while looking around, instead of steadfastly looking down at their smartphones? We can only hope. Cheers, Jon.

  3. When I worked for the Diplomatic Protection Police in London, PMQs was a ‘big deal’ for security on the Wednesday day shift. So we used to watch it on the TV in the control room, which had the rolling BBC News on all the time anyway. I got into the habit, and often watch it now, usually while eating something for lunch before taking my dog out. Over the years, I have to say that Boris is definitely one of the worst speakers at PMQs. Like Neil Kinnock, he lacks dignity and gravitas. And like Tony Blair, he always manages to look like he is hiding something.
    I agree with you about May. Despite her shortcomings, I found her very convincing at PMQs.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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