THE elephant in the room has become impossible to ignore – even by Keir Starmer, who isn’t actually in the room. I speak, of course, of Brexit, a topic some would say the Labour leader has been avoiding like the plague. Except he hasn’t been avoiding the plague very successfully – hence his self-isolation – and indeed he’s been talking about it every week at PMQs. Anything to avoid talking about the big B.
But now, with a mere 23 days to go until the UK leaves the EU, the elephant is trumpeting and Starmer is seeking an update about that oven-ready deal the Prime Minister promised everyone, back when he was making pre-election promises that the chances of no deal were “absolutely zero”.
Funnily enough, Johnson had noted Starmer’s “sphinx-like” silence on this topic, and wonders why he didn’t ask this question much sooner. But he also thinks it’s a stupid question, because the deal he was referring to before was, of course, the withdrawal agreement, not the deal that people are referring to when they ask if we’re having a No-Deal Brexit. You see?
READ MORE: PMQs: Boris Johnson can’t explain why 15 polls show most Scots want independence
Even if no deal is agreed, there was a deal, so no-one is breaking any promises. Oh, and no deal is a deal – an Australian-style deal – even though Australia has no deal. Labour can’t say whether they would back the Government’s deal or not! The fact that the deal doesn’t exist is no excuse for this. Starmer should wrap a towel around his head and … wait, he should what?
Johnson’s still ranting about towels when a furious Speaker interrupts to give Labour MP Chris Bryant an almighty scolding for some “disgraceful behaviour”. What did he do? Poke the elephant in the eye? Wrap a towel around someone’s head? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Sir Edward Leigh had already urged his right honourable friend to make one last effort to achieve a deal, but raised the possibility that “national security” might prevent him from doing so. What does he mean by that? Will he and his fellow Brexiteer “spear-carriers” take up their weapons and go on a rampage in the event that one concession too many is made?
Ian Blackford would like to know why Northern Ireland gets to remain in the single market and customs union while Scotland is being shafted. The answer is that we’ll be taking back control of “colossal quantities of fish”.
His SNP colleague David Linden would like the PM’s opinion on why 15 consecutive polls have shown support for Scottish independence. Surprise surprise, Johnson doesn’t have an answer. He seems confident that all 15 of those polls must be wrong but conveniently, since the indyref was a “once-in-a-generation event”, we will never have to find out.
Pete Wishart isn’t happy with that response so decides to answer Linden’s question himself. Perhaps the First Minister’s leadership is a factor in Yes support rising, or the “crazy chaotic Brexit”. But surely recruiting sergeant Johnson can take most of the credible for himself, and accept a round of applause.
He’s delighted to accept it! Not least because it gives him the chance to slip in a sneaky reference to the “Scottish nationalist party”. Did the Speaker miss this? Perhaps he was still too raging from earlier. Maybe that’s why Johnson wants towels wrapped around the heads of his fellow MPs – to muffle the utter nonsense he’s talking.