Parliamentary questions resemble one of those phrase books which enable one to express, in a foreign language, various thoughts for which it is hard to imagine much need in everyday conversation, useful though they are in the House of Commons.
“Is the Prime Minister right or wrong?” Tony Lloyd asked from the Opposition front bench during Northern Ireland Questions, while trying to establish whether there will be customs checks in the Irish Sea.
“The Prime Minister is always right,” Robin Walker replied from the Treasury bench. New Conservative MPs should memorise this phrase, which they will find can be used on almost any occasion, especially if they want to raise a laugh.
“There is no place in our society for those who peddle hate and division,” a Tory backbencher remarked. Again, a useful phrase, which new MPs should commit to memory.
“Britain’s place in the world is at a crossroads,” Jeremy Corbyn said. He might have added that as far as political life is concerned, we are always at a crossroads, even when we have decided which way to go.
“This is beyond satire,” Boris Johnson said.
“We will have a wonderful summit in Glasgow,” the Prime Minister also remarked.
“As so often I’m not entirely sure what the Honourable Gentleman is talking about,” Johnson said soon after.
“Is he intentionally trying to impersonate Donald Trump?” Ian Blackford asked the Prime Minister.
“This Government as a whole is absolutely passionate about buses,” Johnson said a few minutes later, a remark unlikely to be made by President Trump.
If Ionesco had set one of his plays in the House of Commons, he could have taken the dialogue straight from Hansard.
But since Ionesco is no longer with us, perhaps one of my younger, fitter colleagues can get going on a phrase book which will be of assistance to new MPs.