She would, in all likelihood, have called both leaders out of order – Sir Keir for six convoluted questions lacking incisiveness and Mr Johnson for the contemptible evasiveness that has become his hallmark.
Their attempts at theatrics, and cack-handed attempts at trying to craft soundbites for broadcast clips on national television, do diminish from the importance of the occasion – a chance to hold the Prime Minister to account.
It is an inquisition that can make or break premiers and political careers – more so since the decision was taken in 1989 to broadcast proceedings on television – and Mr Johnson cavalier approach stems as much from the calibre of his inquistors than his own shortcomings. That said, the fact he answered questions from Chequers, where he remains in self-isolation, does set an important precedent for the future.
Covid – and the extent to which Parliament has had to embrace digital technology – should lessen the ability of Mr Johnson, or his successors, to absent themselves from PMQs in the future.
And as Parliament adjourns this week for a summer recess that will, once again, be dominated by the Covid pandemic, and the critical decisions being taken by the Government, there’s frankly no excuse for Ministers to avoid decisions being scrutinised by MPs – even if it means proceedings being conducted ‘virtually’.
If the occasion demands it, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the current Speaker, should not hesitate to exercise the necessary recall powers – it is what Baroness Boothroyd would be doing if she was calling the shots.
It’s also called the public interest.
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