Donald Macintyre's sketch: All aboard the tribute train to Her Majesty

The PM was the first – but not the last – to reel off her awe-inspiring statistics

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Indy Politics

Among the warm tributes from MPs to the Queen in the House of Commons yesterday, the only real news was supplied by SNP parliamentary leader Angus Robertson’s casual revelation of what a Terry Wogan fan she is. Robertson was profoundly satisfied, of course, that the monarch was spending the day on which she had overtaken Victoria as the longest-serving monarch opening the Scottish Borders railway.

He then described how the Queen had once shown “her amazing ability to put people at their ease” by asking the Moray MP if he too listened to Wogan’s BBC Radio 2 show. (This was because Wogan, according to Her Maj, delighted in traffic reports of regular road closures “between Tomintoul in Moray and Cock Bridge, which is close to Balmoral”.)

Almost everyone was there in the Commons chamber. Well, not Jeremy Corbyn. And Boris Johnson slunk in after David Cameron had begun his own graceful tribute to a sovereign who was “a golden thread running through three post-war generations” and “served this country with unerring grace, dignity and decency”.


Cameron was the first – but sadly not the last – to reel off her reign’s awe-inspiring statistics: “She has represented us on 265 official visits to 116 different countries,” he announced, adding – as if in shock at her sense of self-sacrifice – “22 visits to Canada alone”.

Harriet Harman was equally graceful, equally statistical, and with her own topical joke: the Queen reigned over 140 million, “a huge number, nearly as large as the number of registered Labour party supporters”.

So loyal was Tory backbencher Sir Gerald Howarth that he sacrificed his wife’s reputation to the monarch’s, recounting that when Lady Howarth complained about going to the constituency donkey derby when they had been “last year”, he responded: “Her Majesty does all sorts of things every single year.”

By the time Tim Farron spoke, the House’s attention was wavering. As he wittered on about Her Majesty being presented with Kendal Mint Cake by a local councillor, the Labour MP Stephen Pound took aim at the Lib Dem leader with an imaginary rifle.

Farron had only met the Queen twice “but in the years to come I expect an audience more regularly”. This was presumably a joke, since given the shrinking of his party and the quality of his speech, the chances of that are virtually nil.