Angela Rayner is good at looking and sounding unimpressed. With a derisive smile playing across her face, and in rasping Mancunian tones, she asked Dominic Raab:
“How many days a worker on the minimum wage would have to work this year in order to afford a night at a luxury hotel, say in Crete?”
Raab had the decency to smile at this caustic reference to his late, unhappy holiday, which was interrupted by the fall of Kabul. He said some stuff about easing the burden on the lowest paid, but couldn’t think of a retort that would remove Rayner’s grin.
She proceeded to accuse him of “complaining about having to share his 115-room taxpayer-funded mansion with the Foreign Secretary”.
He replied that “she should check her facts”, since Chevening, the mansion in question, is funded by a charity, with not a penny paid by the taxpayer.
Somehow one felt that Raab, in the heat of battle, had not picked the best ground on which to fight this outbreak of class war.
It is possible, of course, that he did not wish to outshine the Prime Minister, for whom he was deputising.
Rayner clearly did wish to outshine Sir Keir Starmer, for whom she was standing in. Her rudeness came as a delightful change from his cautious, lawyerly manner.
Raab, himself by training a lawyer, today played the role usually taken by Sir Keir. He had a complete grasp of the arguments and facts, but was deficient in imagination, and therefore unable to raise anyone’s spirits.
No one will have got to the end of this session wondering why Raab cannot replace Boris Johnson, who has apparently been shuttling by train between New York and Washington, raising people’s spirits everywhere from the United Nations to the White House.