Today’s #PMQs - Political Valium But Angela ‘Rayns’

I don’t watch PMQs every week, I usually catch it on the radio, mostly so I don’t have to watch these vastly overpaid, massively overrated, wheezing establishment stooges simply going through the motions. 

But I made an exception this week. Firstly, I wanted to see what state we'd find Johnson in following his absolute mauling from Ed Miliband, just 48 hours earlier. I’d also heard Angela Rayner was filling in for Sir Keir Starmer so that added a bit more interest. But I also wanted to write something for Council Estate Voices, if they’d have me. 

The first thing I noticed was the mostly empty chamber. It’s quite incredible how these same politicians not seated in the House today have spent the last few weeks and months demanding you get back to work and your children get back to school. If ever there was a scene to demonstrate them and us, it’s the House of Commons, and Rayner started well, reminding Johnson of his past salary, some £2,300 an hour, and asked him if he knows the average wage of a care worker. 

No answer beyond some old waffle about the national living wage. In other words, he doesn’t know how much a care worker earns. 

For the record, it’s little over £8 an hour. 

Rayner followed up seeking a commitment to a comprehensive social care plan. We were demanding this a year ago, and we are still no further forward, beyond meaningless slogans and well placed platitudes.

We move on to Operation Moonshot and the current testing crisis. Rayner asked if all of the care homes in the country have Covid testing facilities. Johnson claimed they do - “to the best of my knowledge” being the get out clause - and said we will be up to half a million tests a day by the end of October. 

Rayner reminded him of past commitments on tests, and she made a very good point. We’ve had multiple targets missed, and when they realised they couldn’t fulfil their commitments, the government cynically changed their pledge from carried out tests to “the capacity to do”. 

Rayner claims an average of just 62,000 tests a day are being carried out. If this is correct, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, it gives you an idea of the mess we are in right now.

Johnson farcically claims we are testing more than anyone in Europe. Go online, Prime Minister, you are talking absolute bilge. We might have the capacity to test more than anyone else, but when the top ten Covid hotspots in Britain do not have a single drive-thru, walk-in or home test kit available between them, you kind of realise the Prime Minister hasn’t got a fucking clue what he is talking about.

The only time I chuckled throughout the 20 minute viewing was when Rayner said, “The next time a man drives from London to Durham it will be for a Covid-19 test”. 

Don’t give them ideas, for God's sake.

Rayner then moved on to birth partners not being allowed to attend births - Johnson agreed. This is a massive issue, there’s no doubt about it, but possibly a question that could’ve been sent via other means?

Rayner finished with a flurry of gruesome statistics and an attack on Johnson’s decision to allow grouse shooting to go ahead in large groups. 

Johnson replied with a two minute crapfest, the normal finger-pointing and desk-prodding rubbish that looks petulant, rehearsed, and far from the Churchillian-type character that Johnson attempts to mimic. 

Johnson already had a reply ready for the sixth question. It doesn’t matter what you ask him, you will get the same grandstanding response, designed to lead the 6pm news. The opposition should be fully aware of this and need to use their final question to do some grandstanding of their own. 

Angela Rayner didn’t really land any massive blows, the opposition rarely does these days. Johnson looked relatively comfortable, and some distance away from the dilapidated shambles that took a roasting from Miliband on Monday. There was no mention of Brexit today, or the government proposing to break international law.

At the same time, Rayner didn’t really do anything wrong, and I prefer her style and delivery to that of Sir Keir Starmer. She was competent, clear, and did well with what she had to work with.

It was also noticeable that Johnson didn’t attack Rayner personally, but the Labour Party itself, which is a luxury rarely afforded to Starmer. One would assume he didn’t want to be labelled a misogynist, but it’s too late for that, Prime Minister, we know what you are. 

That’s about it. No fireworks, nothing spectacular, just the normal pantomime stuff performed in a largely deserted Commons chamber. 

I’d give it to Rayner, purely on substance, but if Ed Miliband is free next Wednesday, can’t we let him have another go? 

Until next time, Rachael

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