It takes more than a display of naked flesh to stop our representatives debating Brexit. Peter Kyle (Lab, Hove) had just begun to argue for a confirmatory public vote when a dozen pairs of bare buttocks were pressed against the glass screen which separates the Public Gallery from the Chamber.
The Speaker indicated that Kyle should carry on. Such distractions are probably so frequent on the south coast that they cease to have much impact, and Kyle carried on in an admirably calm manner.
He appeared to be speaking from a written text, which perhaps made it easier not to lose his train of thought.
One of the protesters – a mixture of women and men, most of them naked but for thongs – had the slogan “STOP WASTING TIME” daubed across his upper body.
As far as Brexit is concerned, no one shows the slightest sign of following that advice. The occurrence of another day given over to indicative votes confirmed that the Government has lost control.
One felt sorry for the tailcoated attendants who had the tricky task of taking back control of the Public Gallery. How does one persuade a nudist that leave means leave?
The nudists were determined to remain. One could not help suspecting they were members of the metropolitan elite, intent on subverting our democracy by defying the clearly expressed will of the people.
The other, much more numerous visitors had to be cleared from the gallery first. This struck some of them as unfair, and took rather a long time.
Nick Boles was by now on his feet, and remarked, before speaking for Common Market 2.0: “It has long been a thoroughly British trait to be able to ignore pointless nakedness.”
If only the great cartoonist Pont were alive now, he could draw a cartoon of British legislators ignoring pointless nakedness.
There were also some more Chaucerian legislators, such as Jess Phillips (Lab, Birmingham Yardley), who laughed and pointed at the figures in the gallery, and a larger number who cast sly sideways glances at the protesters.
The Press Gallery, which is above the Speaker’s chair, faces the Public Gallery at the far end of the Chamber, so journalists could stare straight at what was going on.
Police reinforcements had been summoned, and one by one, some of the protesters were by now being carried bodily from the scene. The rest claimed to have glued their hands to the glass screen, so a solvent had to be applied to get them away.
The whole absurd performance was not allowed to continue as long as the 12-hour protest by a lone figure which this week held up thousands of Eurostar passengers at St Pancras Station.
But the authorities do now seem to take it as axiomatic that they have to proceed with the utmost caution in such cases.
And that is one reason why the Prime Minister, though still in office, has had so little fortune in getting her Brexit deal through the House.
It is a deal negotiated in such a cautious spirit that she has quite been unable to jolt the other side into making concessions, for Brussels always knew she believed that no deal was better than a bad deal.
Nor is there any sense of momentum at Westminster. There is plenty of urgency and disquiet, but no real sense of direction, and no feeling that Theresa May is in charge.