And so today was the day, as PMQs precluded the real story in the House – Theresa May’s triggering of Article 50.
This should have been the pre-launch party – Tory backbenchers drowning in a sea of Mexican waves – but as this was the first Prime Minister’s Questions since the sickening terrorist attack on Parliament things started in a more sombre mood and stayed that way. Perhaps it was reflective of a political establishment still licking its wounds from the most almighty of public kickings at the ballot box.
Jeremy Corbyn barked his way through a series of questions which had nothing to do with Brexit, concentrating instead on funding for schools and police, his questions met with almost unnerving silence. There seemed to be this huge elephant in the room… and then Jezza disappeared. Despite the textbook long-winded rambling, I thought the Labour leader had come to rest rather prematurely – he’d only asked three questions. Maybe he’d thrown in the towel, the child folding his arms because his parents are no longer listening to his selfish tantrum. ‘But Mummy, why can’t I have £500bn?!’
Alas we saw Corbyn employ a new tactic – the split pack. Mercifully he spared his fellow MPs six continuous left-wing lullabies and got up reinvigorated and ready to take on the PM once more – you would have thought. But no. It was more of the same as May batted him away. So what of the new tactic? The first attempt was rubbish and so was the comeback. Jezza has become the political equivalent of Peter Andre. If this was the entertainment, I wanted my money back. But at least some people made an effort. The fancy dress prize must have gone to Angela Rayner, who’s black and red ensemble maybe wasn’t sufficient to pass for Spiderman, but possibly a Black Widow. Even better, perhaps she could eat Corbyn and really give the Labour leader a ‘woman problem’.
Then there was Boris, who came as… well, Boris was just Boris. Even the Speaker noticed above some of the tall frames in this packed House. As Labour’s Tulip Siddiq pressured Vote Leave MPs to stick by their £350m promises, singling out the blond shock of hair on the front bench and accusing him of ‘smirking at the British public’, the Speaker intervened: ‘Order! Boris is sitting quite comfortably.’ Shouldn’t that be ‘the Foreign Secretary’, Mr Bercow? Naughty. In the fancy dress stakes, Corbyn was once again an embarrassing let-down. Why couldn’t he just stick to his normal apparel and he’d pass as a wonderful Albert Steptoe. But oh no, Corbyn had to wear his smart new suit – after all, he’d been waiting his whole life for this day.
To my bewilderment the BBC cameras then panned to Labour’s octogenarian stalwart – and newfound pirate – Paul Flynn, whose beard glowed a bright blue. A trick of the light no doubt, but this party would have needed Captain Bluebeard and a deadly spider to try and beat off the hoard of SNP zombies determined to bring down the mood. That’s the thing with zombies: they moan, they grunt and they have no sense of humour, choosing to take offence when Mrs May referred to them as The Scottish Zombie Party (I think they prefer the Dietarily Disadvantaged Front). One by one they followed their leader Angus Robertson, lifeless eyes and groans of ‘independence’, ‘referendum’. The cult was growing.
Angus is shrewd. For while he commands his zombie acolytes, he is not one of them. He is Count Dracula – charming but still ultimately wanting the blood of Brexit to be spilled. He played his normal statesmanlike character as per usual, addressing the floor in solemnity over the most recent atrocity to hit our globe. Plus the fact that vampires are sensitive to light. In fact Angus was instrumental in a last-minute change to the SNP’s previous anti-Brexit sit in. His demon choir had their hearts set on singing La Marseillaise but he changed the program to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’. As conductor he would have had to sport a beret and garlic you see, and garlic’s a big no no in the Vamp community.
And with a huge underwhelming sigh, we’d reached the toast of the party. Here’s to Brexit. The Prime Minister’s Article 50 statement, while lacking in detail, outlined a spirit of boldness, hope, belief, and optimism. This was it, party time. Mrs May even got a few laughs, calling for Europe to maintain its liberal democratic values. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron saw the funny side but I don’t know why. Opposing the result of a referendum isn’t democratic and arguing that certain voters weren’t educated enough to make an informed decision seems decidedly illiberal. Jokes on you.
But all that optimism and hope drained away as soon as Corbyn rose for his response. Talk about a party pooper. This was an awful situation. ‘No deal is bad deal,’ he lamented. ‘This is a race to the bottom’. As more verbal diarrhea let its stink take hold, Corbyn came back into my earshot. ‘No deal is a bad deal. This is a race to the bottom’. Perhaps he’d been bitten by the black widow, the poison causing the subject to repeat himself in a lucid state. Or maybe Jeremy was just being Jeremy.
As the disease of mindless repetition spread through the House at an alarming rate, what seemed like hundreds of SNP MPs rose after Jeremy, one by one, with only one thing on their mind. And it wasn’t the European referendum.
That’s right, worst Brexit party imaginable.