This is what it was really like at PMQs today

It never ceases to amaze me that in Britain, we treat Prime Minister’s Questions like a football match, with grown up politicians jeering and whooping and groaning when someone says something funny or stupid. Well, there was plenty of stupid today

Harriet Williamson
Wednesday 19 October 2022 17:18 BST
Liz Truss is 'completely committed' to maintaining pensions triple lock

In the House of Commons press gallery, lobby journalists perched on green-covered benches in the rafters, elbows on narrow wooden desks like church pews. The vibe was either Victorian schoolroom or slightly neglected chapel – either way, the whole place could do with airing out.

In a sea of dark suits, I was definitely the only person in the chamber with lilac hair, dressed entirely in pastel pink. Completely out of place, but making up for it with enthusiasm, I was resisting the urge to nudge my colleague John Rentoul every two seconds and point out different MPs like we were playing an extremely underwhelming and nerdy version of celebrity spotting. Hey, I’m no hardened Westminster hack – it was a novel experience, not least the revelation that there’s an on-site hairdressing salon. Who knew?

From the level of baying when Liz Truss entered the chamber, one might be forgiven for thinking that within 40-ish days in office, she’d tanked the pound, crashed the economy and exploded half the country’s mortgage deals – oh wait...

The prime minister barely got through her first sentence, which was to announce that she had attended meetings with ministerial colleagues this morning (the point of the pronouncement was unclear, unless she wanted to let the House know that ministerial colleagues were still willing to speak to her), before the roaring started up again.

It never ceases to amaze me that in Britain, we treat Prime Minister’s Questions like a football match, with grown up politicians jeering and whooping and groaning when someone says something funny or stupid. There was plenty of stupid today.

Truss, now reduced to the status of plastic windup toy, clacked her jaws together as she juddered and stabbed her finger. She had been very clear, she was sorry, she had made mistakes. Part A triggered hysterics, parts B and C deafening cries for her to resign.

The prime minister spun the sparkly wheel to select today’s target – and the lucky winner was... not the anti-growth coalition, Extinction Rebellion, North Londoners or … but militant unions! Step right up to collect your £25 Argos gift voucher and repeated villification at this week’s PMQs! Truss insisted that she is on the side of the “strivers” – not strikers. She backs hardworking people.

It’s a shame for Truss and her cute “strikers vs strivers” alliteration that strikers are strivers. They are hardworking people – they just want fair pay and working conditions so they can continue to do their jobs.

There were points where the prime minister appeared to forget who she was and what job she’s in. She seemed to think Labour might also be in government, in some sort of tandem operation, as she pointed at the leader of the opposition and said he’d “done nothing” while her policy was to protect the most vulnerable. Someone needs to break it to her that the Tories are in government and she’s in No 10, at least for now.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment, sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here

Labour were having a great time – and making plenty of noise. Unfortunately for them, their team captain was almost as poor a performer as the prime minister, who is only slightly more popular than Vladimir Putin. It was genuinely like watching two clumsy aardvarks blundering through a ballet recital. Charisma was in short supply.

There was a good bit where the opposition started chanting “GONE” when Starmer rattled through a list of now scrapped mini-Budget elements. Truss, like a roomba that’s wedged into a corner, began quoting Peter Mandelson about being a “fighter” – and U-turned on a U-turn by absolutely committing to keeping the triple lock on pensions (which probably means your pension is screwed, I’m sorry).

Faced with a perfectly normal question about post office privatisation from Kate Osborne, Truss retorted that she wanted a functional postal service, not to make “ideological points”. Which is funny, because Truss’s whole mini-Budget (RIP) was one great big catastrophic ideological point. People in glass houses etc.

I’d barely managed to wolf a subsidised (£3.30) filo pastry case with roasted mushrooms and salad, make awkward small talk with various MPs (lovely to meet you, Ed Miliband) and hotfoot it back on the Circle line before Suella “tofu-eating wokerati” Braverman resigned. Liz Truss’s premiership is held together with spit and Wrigley’s Spearmint. The thought struck me that I might just have seen her last PMQs.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in