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How loyal David Lidington and Emily Thornberry were to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, for whom they were standing in, the Prime Minister being away at the Nato summit.

The effect of listening to the two deputies was to make one think the principals might have been, if not more sparkling, at least a shade less verbose.

Lidington started by offering to buy an England flag for Thornberry, but that was as amusing  as he got.

Thornberry opened with a comparison between the England team, where “everyone respects and listens to the manager”, and the Cabinet, which does not.

That was fine, but the rest of her script wasn’t. She attempted to challenge Lidington on questions of Brexit trade, about which he evidently knows a hundred times more than she does.

And she went on so long that the Speaker, John Bercow, actually felt the need to shut her up during one of her questions, while also asking Lidington to be less long-winded.

Thornberry did not sound like a woman who thought she could bring the Government down, or even that she could inflict any damage on it which could begin to compare with the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson.

Nor did she look like someone who would be an improvement on Corbyn, her fellow Islingtonian. Nor did she convey for one second the impression that Labour might make a better fist of Brexit.

Lidington was calm and collected, but again entirely lacking in penetrative power. But perhaps he was just daring to be dull in order to calm things down. One would not have supposed, from listening to him, that the Government had just passed through a torrid few days.

Ian Blackford, for the Scots Nats, remembered with fitting solemnity the Srebrenica massacre, and then objected to the red carpet being rolled out for the President of the United States, with “his abysmal record on human rights” and “disgusting treatment of women”.

Lidington replied that Britain’s relationship with the USA is “probably the closest between any two democracies in the West”, and when Amber Rudd, the former Home Secretary, declared from the backbenches that American co-operation with UK intelligence services “has saved lives in the US”, he agreed with her that it has saved lives in both countries.

The Speaker said at the start of these proceedings that Jay and Merrill Osmond, from the 1970s group The Osmonds, were in the gallery.

Jay Osmond, a tubby, middle-aged man with a moustache, half stood and made a small bow, to skittish applause from MPs.

But he will not be able to tell his folks back home that those British MPs sure know how to put on a good show.

18 comments for: Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: May and Corbyn remain unchallenged by their deputies

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