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PM ambles into action as heated week unfolds

By Toby Neal | Opinions | Published:

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. But all in his good time.

Boris Johnson pictured in Downing Street this week

Boris was on holiday when the balloon went up and dangerous new tensions began to envelop the Middle East. So we didn’t hear from him then.

And when Parliament resumed this week amid an atmosphere of mounting crisis, Boris was missing in action. He let the Defence Secretary speak for the government’s response instead, Boris’s absence being explained by the fact that he was “running the country.”

But Prime Minister’s Questions generally implies the presence of the Prime Minister, and Boris considered that it merited an appearance.

Steel helmet somewhat askew on his tousled locks, Boris rose his head above the parapet, bashed Jeremy Corbyn a bit, said Qasem Soleimani was a very bad man who wouldn’t be missed, and called for de-escalation.

Of course, there is much to be said for a measured, cautious approach, but it was interesting that in contrast to Tony Blair, who stood shoulder to shoulder with George W. Bush, and declared that Britain stood shoulder to shoulder with America, Boris Johnson has chosen to stand shoulder to shoulder with France and Germany.

His tone has not gone unnoticed by Washington which has expressed disappointment about the lukewarm support from Europe.

Jeremy Corbyn was true to form. Something had to be done about a reckless, dangerous madman who had scant regard for international norms, he sort of said. It was no surprise that he was talking about Donald Trump rather than Soleimani.

His concluding argument was that Britain was acting as America’s poodle because it was desperate for a post-Brexit trade deal.

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The Labour benches were quiet. The surviving MPs are still licking their wounds.

Yes, they’re all back, and we have had an early insight this week into some of the themes as 2020 unfolds.

For the moment, only the SNP on the opposition benches has high morale.

The SNP will say, again and again, that the general election result in which they made significant gains represents a mandate for a new referendum on Scottish independence.

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Boris Johnson will reply again and again that they have already had a once-in-a-generation referendum, in which the Scots emphatically voted to remain in the UK.

“Concentrate on what you’re doing and stop going on about breaking up the union,” Johnson told Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, who had the grace to smile.

We have also got to see some of the new MPs, mostly Tories. And the style of a new Speaker.

All hail, Sir Lindsay Hoyle. His quiet way of doing things has made John Bercow look as if he was an arrogant show-off.

One MP, Michael Fabricant, said it was nice to see that PMQs actually finished on time, and no MPs had “had to suffer abuse from the chair”.

For now, it is a strange period for Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn is a dead man walking and Labour is going to take a while to get its ducks in a row and choose a new leader.

Sir Keir Starmer is a frontrunner, having gained the support of the union Unison. So in its time of trouble Labour may turn to London Man.

That should go down well in Grimsby, Redcar, etc.

Can’t see it myself.

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Bafta whitewash shows the danger of giving people a vote

The list of nominations for the Bafta awards has been criticised as a “whitewash” because of its lack of diversity.

This reveals the inherent problem of giving people a vote.

You can never be sure that they will make the right choice.

I do not completely exclude the possibility that the Bafta members who voted were not influenced by conscious or unconscious racism, sexism, or any other ism, but simply chose who and what they thought were best.

Not that I’m in any position to make a judgment on such matters, not being a big cinemagoer.

I’ve only seen a couple of the movies on the nominations list, one of which was Joker, which is apparently much fancied to win some gongs.

Really, I should have read the reviews first, then I would have realised that it is a “modern classic”. Also, I would have been armed with the contextual information that it is based on the life of the villain in Batman.

Instead, I simply found it weird and unpleasant.

Talking of showbiz, the decision of Harry and Meghan to go freelance opens up a world of new opportunities for commercialism and sponsorship for their H&M brand, with the seal of royal disapproval.

There is a television weatherman who looks rather like Harry.

If he is looking for a little bit of pocket money Harry could act as his body double from time to time.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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