Watching Boris Johnson splutter his way through a parliamentary grilling brings both pleasure and pain

Watching Boris Johnson splutter his way through a parliamentary grilling brings both pleasure and pain

In these desperate times, in which the populist virus is wreaking havoc with the world, we must take little pleasures wherever we can find them. Like the little pleasure I take seeing Boris Johnson stumble, splutter and “er, ah, um” his way through his encounter with the Liaison Committee. It is a pleasure born of the fact that the prime ministerial grilling by select committee chairmen and women was my idea, many moons ago. It emerged from a brainstorm we convened when Tony Blair was prime minister, as the Tories and their media supporters were successfully mounting the argument that, contrary to reality, he and the New Labour government did not take their duties to parliament seriously. Johnson, both as journalist and then politician, was foremost in running that line against us. So the little pleasure in watching him so clearly not enjoying, and certainly not mastering, the Liaison Committee is partly boosted by remembering his part in that campaign. Tony Blair was initially reluctant to add a regular session with select committee chairs to his parliamentary duties. Prime Minister’s Question Time was onerous enough. To the end, he never stopped finding it nerve-wracking; he even had a little PMQs superstition – he wore the same pair of shoes for every session he ever did, for a decade. The fact that he so often made PMQs look easy was a consequence of two things – how seriously he took these weekly half-hour sessions, and how much time and effort he put into being on top of ...
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