This was a very unusual Prime Minister’s Questions. Bob Blackman (Con, Harrow East) prompted a round of applause for Kitty Hart-Moxon, a Holocaust survivor who was visiting the House, and as a 16-year-old girl had witnessed the horrors of Auschwitz.
David Lidington, the Leader of the House, stood in for Theresa May, who is in the Gulf. Labour for some reason decided Emily Thornberry would stand in for Jeremy Corbyn.
Perhaps it was thought this was the best way to shore up Labour’s crumbling support in its Islington heartlands, though one suspects it would undermine Labour support everywhere else.
For Thornberry is married to a knight, speaks in the tones of Lady Bountiful, and wears an unselfconscious air of moral and intellectual superiority, which was exposed to wider view during the Rochester by-election, when she was tactless enough to tweet a picture of a white van parked in front of a house draped in a St George’s flag.
Today she tried to embarrass Mr Lidington by reminding him that before the referendum he said it would be “a disaster for British business not to remain part of the customs union”.
Thornberry embraces Lidington! But the Leader of the House rejected her advances. With chaste and determined modesty, and a shudder which he did his best to repress, he reminded Thornberry that there has been a referendum.
The British people have spoken! They have shown they do not want Lidington, or any of his colleagues, to embrace Thornberry. Instead they want Brexit.
Thornberry protested that Labour too accepts “the democratic verdict” of the British people. But her manner belied this. She has still the haughty manner of a member of the ancien régime, who will never adapt her ideas to the revolution which has taken place, and will make only the most insincere pretence of offering some trifling concessions to the spirit of the age. Thornberry’s heart is still in the customs union.
So Corbyn’s job is in no danger from Thornberry. Perhaps that it why she was chosen: she at least could be relied upon not to upstage her chief.