Welcome to another daylong Commons edition of Pointless | John Crace

A gaslighting Johnson, a rambling Corbyn and a clueless Redwood did their best to burnish the UK’s credentials as global laughing stock

For 589 days during 2010 and 2011, Belgium had no functioning government. Lucky, lucky Belgium. Right now the UK would kill for that. After all, it’s not as if we’ve had anyone doing anything useful on hospitals, schools and crime for the last three and a half years. And just imagine the things we’d have been able to live without. Endless arguments and impasse over whether the UK voted for a hard Brexit or a really hard Brexit. A government unable to keep its promises on almost anything. An opposition unable to oppose. And a People’s Vote campaign that has prioritised a civil war over the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

There have been countless pointless debates in the Commons over the past few years. Yet the latest attempt by the government to put itself out of its misery through a third Fixed-term Parliaments Act vote was more futile than most – not least because the result was a foregone conclusion as all the opposition parties had already indicated that they would either abstain or vote against to deny Boris Johnson the two-thirds majority he required. So what we got was pure theatre. Am-dram at its very worst. Fluffed lines, missed cues. Method stupidity.

“This parliament has run its course,” Boris Johnson began, displaying not the slightest hint of embarrassment, and proving yet again that he is a man with almost no self-awareness; the nightmare patient totally resistant to any forms of therapy. It had slipped the prime minister’s mind that the current parliament had only been up and running for two weeks. And had only just finished debating the Queen’s Speech when the Commons had last sat on Thursday.

So what the Incredible Sulk was really admitting was that he had lied to the country, lied to parliament and lied to the Queen. His five-week prorogation had only ever been a scam to waste time. There had never been any intention to get anything done in the new parliament. Sure, he’d promised free pet care for the elderly and a new motorway for the Isle of Wight, but that had all just been a load of Classic Dom bollocks.

The gaslighting for the gullible didn’t stop there. The Sulk expressed amazement that the Commons had been unwilling to get Brexit done when he’d only bothered to get round to negotiating a deal that Theresa May had already rejected because it was seriously rubbish, and then thrown a hissy fit when MPs had demanded more than three days to scrutinise it. Boris has never found an alternative reality he doesn’t prefer to the truth. After lying that the extension was costing the country an extra £1bn per month, he pleaded with everyone to trust him.

Jeremy Corbyn had clearly decided to get his abstentions in early. He nearly missed the opening of the debate – only some extended pointless points of order saved his blushes – and then he all but abstained from his own speech. Here was his gold-plated opportunity to expose the government’s inadequacy and its failure to deliver Brexit, and yet again he managed to live down to the occasion.

Fair to say the Conservatives might not be quite so keen for an election if Labour had a different leader. Corbyn did a bit of shouting and a bit of rambling, but never fully explained on what terms he would support an election. Instead he seemed genuinely bewildered that the Sulk had not kept his promise to die in a ditch. The fact that Johnson was still breathing was a national scandal. It didn’t seem to occur to him that this might just have been another broken promise.

The futility continued with more people speaking in tongues, almost as if this was the advanced stages of the Alpha course. John Redwood declared that we needed an election because the UK was a beacon of common sense to the rest of the world. In his head, the Dam Busters theme runs on a continuous loop. He hasn’t yet realised that the country is actually a total joke to the rest of the world and that he is one of the punchlines.

Ian Blackford demanded an election on 9 December once the threat of a no-deal Brexit had been removed, only to rather confuse the issue by saying that votes for 16- and 17-year olds must be on the table – something that would take at least six months to implement. Jo Swinson used much of her speech to say that Labour didn’t support a “people’s vote”, which happens to be about the only thing Labour does agree on.

It was all just words, words, words, none of them in any coherent order; just sounds to echo around the chamber and waste 90 minutes before the house inevitably voted down the government’s plan. Then we were straight back to where we had started. Johnson insisted that he would bring back a bill for a 12 December election with no promises of not trying to bring back the withdrawal bill. The SNP and the Lib Dems said the election had to be on the ninth and on their terms. Corbyn said he needed more time to not come to a decision.

It might all be clearer on Tuesday. There again, it might not. We were back in purgatory. MPs have been on Quaaludes for years. It’s about time they shared them with the rest of us.

Contributor

John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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