“Totally f***ing hopeless.” For some curious reason, Sir Keir Starmer made no use of the Prime Minister’s alleged verdict on the Health Secretary’s performance.
Nor was it arranged for any Labour MP to fire off this ammunition, so helpfully supplied to the Opposition by Dominic Cummings just before Prime Minister’s Questions.
Sir Keir instead stuck to his script. It wasn’t a bad script, but it lacked the element of surprise.
Johnson could see the Leader of the Opposition coming a mile off, bearing a pile of complaints about the Delta variant and the failure for the first three weeks of April to put India on the red list.
Somehow Sir Keir could not make anyone feel indignant about this. He did not sound particularly indignant himself.
He sounded like a lawyer who has accepted a brief to represent the Labour Party and is making a decent fist of it, but without any real sign of fighting spirit or emotional commitment.
“Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,” Sir Keir said, and then actually quoted Cummings: “There was no proper border policy because the Prime Minister never wanted a proper border policy.”
We’d heard that one before. It wasn’t the latest Cummings ammo, which might or might not have turned out to be armour-piercing, but which should at least have been test fired.
Johnson was so comfortable wrangling about Delta he managed to become quite dull: a form of defence to which he seldom resorts, but which no statesman can afford to be without.
It was left to Ian Blackford, for the SNP, to make the most amusing remark of the day, during a passage about football: “I do hope we don’t see Scotland being dragged out of the Euros against our wishes.”
Philip Davies (Con, Shipley) declared that “one of the reasons for the popularity of the Prime Minister…”
Labour titters, though one might have thought they would want to know why the PM is popular.
According to Davies, it’s because Johnson is “always on the side of the public rather than the Establishment”.
A cheeky trick, but one which most PMs manage to perform while the going is good.