Published:

16 comments

A robin stole the show. There was something wonderfully unexpected and utterly charming about this small bird, so familiar to gardeners, flitting about the lofty Chamber and peering down at the not very scintillating exchanges below.

David Lidington was standing in for Theresa May, who is in China. Emily Thornberry, deputising for Jeremy Corbyn, wished to know why Lidington is one of 155 Davids who have sat in the Commons, while she is the only Emily.

This may be a question which sets the table on a roar during dinner parties in Islington, the district of north London which she represents, but one felt it might be a bit remote from the concerns of the working class voters to whom Labour once gave a voice.

How many robins have there been in the Chamber? This was the first of which we had ever heard. He shifted his perch for a minute or two to the press gallery.

One found oneself wondering whether the robin was hungry, or worse still, thirsty. One of the many drawbacks of PMQs in its present form is that it takes place before lunch, when many of us are starting to feel a little peckish.

Thornberry chucked a reference to Mutiny on the Bounty at Lidington – apparently a jibe he had thrown at her in December 2016, when Corbyn was suffering from a certain amount of insubordination.

Lidington retorted that no fewer than 97 members of the Labour front bench have either been sacked or resigned since then. And on the women question, he observed that the Conservative Party has so far provided the nation with two women Prime Ministers, and Labour with none.

One half expected Thornberry to object that since neither of those PMs is called Emily, they do not really count.

Could Thornberry herself fill this void in our national story? She possesses, certainly, the sovereign manner of one who expects her orders to be obeyed.

What she lacks is any sense of how she appears to the wider world. On and on she went about votes for 16-year-olds.

Lidington pointed out that the last Labour government raised to 18 the age at which one is allowed to buy cigarettes, fireworks and knives, or to use a sunbed.

Thornberry said that those were issues of public health, on which, she implied, the State is very much better informed than private citizens could be expected to be, especially those who are only 16 or 17 years old.

She accused Lidington of belonging, with the DUP, to “the coalition of cavemen”. Since few people look less like a caveman than Lidington does, this accusation just increased the sense that Thornberry has no ear for normal speech, and is somehow stuck in an Islingtonian world of her own.

Ian Blackford, for the Scots Nats, asked about the European single market, and went on: “This is a government in crisis and an international embarrassment.”

But Lidington did not look embarrassed. He looked like a minister who can adopt an air of well-informed sincerity on any subject under the sun, or even under the sunbed.

The robin was by now sitting about 30 feet above and behind Lidington, on a ledge just below one of the windows.

One day the Commons may be a bare ruined choir, and wild birds may return as of right, but just now the robin seemed marvellously natural compared to anyone else, and continued to steal the show.

16 comments for: Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: Robin steals the show from Emily and David

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.