Boris Johnson is saved! Despite making a joke earlier this week about the Prime Minister’s “Lederhosen” (which were today not in evidence), she referred to him as an FFS, which according to her means a Fine Foreign Secretary.
The question of Johnson’s future was raised by Peter Dowd (Lab, Bootle), who joins the lengthening list of people who would make a better Leader of the Opposition than Jeremy Corbyn.
Dowd suggested to Theresa May that when she wrote the letters FO next to Johnson’s name, they “should have been an instruction, not a job offer”.
The Prime Minister replied that Johnson is doing an “absolutely excellent job”, and provided her own jokey abbreviation.
Corbyn and the Labour Whips had presumably decided the question of Johnson’s future was better dealt with by a backbencher than by the leader himself.
In 1801 the brilliant young George Canning exclaimed in the Commons:
“Away with the cant of ‘Measures not men’! – the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along. If the comparison must be made, if the distinction must be taken, men are everything, measures comparatively nothing.”
But Corbyn is far from brilliant. He is a third-rate ideologue, in whose unreceptive brain is lodged the belief that measures are everything.
And he has a prissy, Pooterish objection to making personal remarks. So he did not go for Johnson, even though the divergence in style and substance between the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister is one of the Government’s most glaring weaknesses.
Corbyn steers clear of Brexit, which is the great question of the day, but on which his own views are far from clear, though they can be presumed not have changed since he imbibed the pure milk of socialist Euroscepticism from Tony Benn.
The Leader of the Opposition instead asked about social care, a subject on which, by his own modest standards, he managed to sound trenchant. He ended with the plea, “Get a grip and fund it properly, please.”
How the word “please” let him down, and made him sound like a weedy little supplicant.
It fell to Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Greens, to call for a minister’s head. “Sack him!” she said of Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary. For Lucas complained that the Prime Minister has no idea of “the level of pain” inflicted on her constituents in Brighton for the last 18 months by the wretched train service which ought to enable them to get to London.
The Prime Minister omitted to describe Grayling as a Fine Transport Secretary, but said Lucas ought instead to condemn the strike called by ASLEF.
Lucas remains this column’s choice to take over from Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition. She may be a vegetarian, but unlike him, she has the killer instinct. A coalition between Labour and the Greens is now the only way forward.