THE big beasts were all away yesterday, with Bo-Jo most notably prodding Sleepy Joe awake in yonder USA. Perhaps the Prime Minister’s absence accounted for the relatively empty green benches. No show without Paunch.
In his place was Dominic Raab, a politician best known for his karate skills. Distinctly diffident, it’s difficult to imagine him shouting an aggressive “hai-ya!” before chopping someone’s carotid artery. Still, it was nice to see a Tory leader wearing a decent tie and suit for a change.
Unusual, also, to a see a proper working class leader (or at least deputy leader) of the Labour Party, this being Angela Rayner, a brassie lassie in a flowery frock who looks like she could down 10 pints after a shift down the pit and still have energy to walk the greyhounds.
Unfortunately for Mr Raab, she was also well up for a fight yesterday, battering through the Deputy PM’s soto uke with a poke in the eye from a finger still greasy from her pre-debate chips.
Bang: did he still believe British workers were “amongst the worst idlers in the world”?
Wallop: could he say how much his government’s Universal Credit cut and National Insurance hike would cost a worker on 18 grand a year?
Whimper: Mr Raab protested that the Universal Credit uplift was “always meant to be temporary”.
“Lots of words for ‘I don’t know’,” sneered Ms Rayner, before revealing that the figure was over £1,100, “almost exactly the same as an average annual energy bill”.
She’d more words to cast up, namely the DPM’s view that the solution was for people to “work harder”. All right: how many days need a minimum wage worker toil “to afford a night at a luxury hotel” – leaning forward provocatively – “say in Crete?”. This referred to Mr Raab’s holiday, while Foreign Secretary, during the Afghanistan debacle.
Mumbling about the economy being quite good only earned Mr Raab another knee in the nads: “He talks about the economy! He doesn’t even know how much his own holiday cost!” Ouchy. As for Angela’s question, she answered it herself: 50 days, “probably even more if the sea was open”. (After accusations of paddleboarding during the crisis, Mr Raab claimed this had been impossible as the sea had been closed).
Now it was the DPM’s turn to cast up Ms Rayner’s words, culled from the Guardian – “so it must be true” – where she’d said Labour must stop “talking down to people” and that working class folk wanted “opportunities”, not handouts. Ooh-er, that’s Tory talk, that is.
But Ms Rayner still walked the Labour walk: “I noticed we have a shortage of hot air this week,” she averred, before advising Mr Raab brazenly: “Maybe he should go back to his sun lounger and let me take over.”
Families were worried about heating their homes, she went on, “while he’s complaining about having to share his 115-room, taxpayer-funded mansion with the Foreign Secretary.” Replied Raab weakly: “She should check her facts because Chevening is funded by a charity, not a penny of taxpayers’ money.” To recap: he’s a well-off man staying in a mansion funded by a charity. Not a good look.
Poor Mr Raab. He got a right kicking yesterday. To be fair, he’s adequate. He’s middle management. He can’t do humour. He might be able, Karate Kid-style, to wax on, wax off but he can’t wax lyrical. He’s like somebody you’d encounter behind a complaints desk: patient, stony-faced, weary, not particularly invested in any of this. You guess the only useful answer he’d provide would be: “Lavatories? Down the corridor, first on the right. There’s no loo roll.”
As for Ms Rayner, she’s a star, a Bolshevik Boudicca. A Maggie for Labour might be putting it inappropriately, but this is someone ordinary folk could take to. Forceful, confident, passionate, she’s the sort of lass you’d have loved to be your auntie when you were a kid. This is the lass to rebuild the Red Wall.
Is Kirsten Oswald the lass to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall? Standing in for Ian Blackford, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader came across as worthy and unoriginal, even unto wearing one of those big scarves that no female politician could be seen without. In 1998.
She complained about millions of families “across Scotland and the UK” having their incomes slashed, and called on the Government to ensure that “no one has to choose between eating and heating this winter”.
Mr Raab claimed many policy areas highlighted by Ms Oswald were devolved to Scotland, which is like saying to your kids: “Here’s your pocket money. Now pay the mortgage with it.”
He added that the British Army was helping “the people of Scotland” (copyright Mr Blackford), which is never a clever thing to claim, being vaguely reminiscent of Northern Ireland, with an added whiff of: “Oh goodie, the redcoats are here.”
Poor Mr Raab. Still, he’s come far in his career. Red Angela is just getting started on hers.
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