The Chamber in the House of Commons looks a very different place in the time of COVID-19 and is much less raucous than we have known in the past. It is the one year anniversary of Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister, and this week’s PMQ’S started in the usual way with the PM being asked if to list his official engagements for the day as we waited for the game to begin.
The Speaker called the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, to the dispatch box. Sir Keir started proceedings by stating his thanks for the efforts of those conducting COVID-19 vaccine research, especially in Oxford. As anticipated, he jumped straight in with the Russia question, stating firstly, in his matter-of-fact tone, that under his leadership ‘national security will always be a top priority for the Labour party’.
‘With the publication of the report from the Intelligence and Security Committee and the importance of the information held within it, why did the PM sit on it for ten months?’
The PM jumped immediately to his feet and countered that while he has been in office he and his government have orchestrated the expulsion of 153 Russian diplomats around the world, whilst Sir Keir sat on his hands and the then-Labour leadership parroted the line of the Kremlin whilst citizens of Salisbury were poisoned under the orders of Vladimir Putin. To and fro the game continued, Boris with a comfortable lead.
The PM went on to tell the house, in what I can only describe as a slightly less animated Boris than usual, that there is no country in the world like the UK who take the lead in caution on Russian interference, describing the introduction of new legislation like the Espionage Act and others. This game of whiff-whaff carried on across the despatch boxes with the PM than saying that the Islington elite were grabbing hold of the report in a last-ditch attempt to scupper Brexit. Boris takes the win.
We then had Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP, in Westminster via video link in his usual bluster and bravado pushing the issue of Scottish independence. Whilst I and many of my libertarian colleagues believe that devolution is the way forward with power being devolved to the regions with tax raising powers to open up competition between them, as recently discussed in a webinar hosted by the Adam Smith Institute, we believe that Scotland has the right to choose its own path. However, myself and others also believe that it is a fool’s errand to to follow the path of the SNP, back into the arms of the EU (especially when they cannot manage their own party’s finances)!
There were several other questions directed at the Treasury’s COVID-19 response in particular industries, with the PM reiterating the amount of taxpayer money spent. There was, however, little talk of encouraging growth in the private sector; perhaps they should read F. A. Hayek’s quote, that ‘he will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does for his plants’.
We shall see what next week’s PMQ’s brings.