What a strange, skittish, end-of-term feel there was to Prime Minister’s Questions. Theresa May said “the country witnessed a very rare and welcome event last night” – the England team winning a penalty shoot-out.
While making this prepared remark, she gave one of her genuine yet somehow strained smiles, during which her lower jaw moves sideways and she takes on a faint resemblance to a gargoyle. A better photograph of her, laughing out loud while visiting Smithfield Market on 7th June 2017 and taken by Stefan Rousseau, can now be seen at the foot of the stairs to the Commons Press Gallery, along with an equally charming image taken on 4th May 2017 of Jeremy Corbyn watching a child on a swing.
But charm is not enough to make PMQs worth watching. During one of her formulaic passages about the EU, Theresa May said “as we leave the UK” – a slip of the tongue which occasioned further laughter, but suggested deep inner strain.
Two Eurosceptics, Owen Paterson and Sir Edward Leigh, asked for assurances that the forthcoming Cabinet meeting at Chequers will produce a Brexit plan in accordance with earlier assurances, including those given in the Conservative and Labour manifestos.
The Prime Minister provided those assurances, but it was noticeable that Boris Johnson, seated on the Treasury bench a few places away from her, looked despondent.
Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of questions about bus services: a worthy subject, but one remote from the issues of the hour. He is presumably following the maxim, attributed to Napoleon, that one should never interrupt an enemy who is making a mistake.
It is, however, quite hard to think of a less Napoleonic figure than the present Leader of the Opposition. When he stands on his dignity, as he often does while being mocked by Tory hooligans, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr Pooter, hero of George and Weedon Grossmith’s masterpiece, The Diary of a Nobody.