Boris Johnson just used PMQs to demand praise for the towering failures he thinks he hasn’t had

It was, as always, Keir Starmer's fault for failing to focus on the dwindling number of things the prime minister hasn't got wrong

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Wednesday 01 July 2020 16:38
Starmer says PM ‘flippant’ on lockdown easing

Another week of prime minister’s questions and another week of Keir Starmer stubbornly refusing to “get behind” the government as it continues its uniquely ruinous path through the Covid-19 crisis.

This is the only card Boris Johnson can play, and thus it is guaranteed that it will now be played multiple times, week after week from here to evermore.

As time passes, Johnson’s response to the coronavirus crisis takes on an ever more of a Fyre Festival documentary feel, and he seems genuinely puzzled by Keir Starmer’s consistent unwillingness to go down to the customs office and do his bit to get the Evian water released.

Johnson is going through the motions, saying everything’s fine, showing the guests to their humanitarian disaster relief tents, ignoring the massive tropical storm, the complete lack of bands and so on and so on.

When Starmer has the temerity to tell him, for example, that lockdown restrictions are being eased a month after the “world-beating” test and trace system was meant to be up and running but isn’t, Johnson just replies telling him to “pay tribute to the 113,000 people who have been contact traced”.

That the system is 25 per cent operational, and 75 per cent non-operational, just means that Starmer should be paying tribute to the 25 per cent, rather than going on and on and on about everything that’s gone wrong, all the broken promises, the needless deaths in their tens of thousands.

Why won’t he just get behind the government? Why can’t he just point at the clown prime minister, driving his clown car and say, “at least it’s got a steering wheel”, rather than going on and on about there not being any brakes, or about the child that’s just walked into the middle of the road?

“We are the builders, they are the blockers!” he told him, the leader of a party that’s now been governing for 10 years. “Build build build! Jobs jobs jobs!” he shouted, like a tremulous word blancmange that’s just been smashed with a cartoon hammer.

PM announces new route to citizenship for Hong Kongers

There is, as is well known, precisely no end in sight to this awful crisis, no viable exit strategy. It is hard to plot a graph of these kinds of things, but on the current trajectory, by September, Johnson will be expecting Starmer to praise him for having got himself up and dressed in the morning, admittedly on the off chance he actually manages to do so.

Later, in the House of Commons, Dominic Raab would be at the despatch box, announcing 3 million Hong Kongers would now be eligible to apply for permanent UK citizenship. There is never any shortage of irony around these days, but even so, here was the government, grandly extending free movement rights to 3 million Hong Kongers, not even 24 hours after celebrating having stripped their own people of the same.

Oh well. Best not complain. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world, Covid-19 broke out there long before it did here, and yet it has recorded 1,204 cases and 7 deaths. It’s possible that even among those naive enough to want to come here, there might be someone willing to provide a bit of a clue to our lot.

Until that happens, we can all just carry on being told to praise Dear Johnson for reasons none of us understand, because they do not exist.

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