There is a long history – dating all the way back to the 1970s in its modern form – of Commons sketch writing, which is to say reporting the proceedings of the House of Commons and our noble representatives as they sit debating our best interests within it, and doing so in a humorous fashion. Andrew Alexander possibly started it in the modern newspapers, Frank Johnson and Edward Pearce have been masters of the art, and Quentin Letts keeps the satirical bile flowing today, amongst others. It’s almost as if these collected writers believe that either the Commons isn’t funny enough on its own merits, or that the ludicrous pomposity of the inhabitants we have sent there needs exposing on a regular basis.
There is no better forum for such scathing wit than the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions. I’m not sure whether this regular bun fight has ever provided much illumination, but it has certainly been operating several stages below the average playground brawl in the hands of the current incumbent and his opposite number. And Cameron was the man who once piously announced he would do away with “Punch and Judy” politics. Honestly. Politicians and their promises.
Anyway, I mention all this, in a rather long-winded way, to flag up the Spectator’s brilliant Lloyd Evans, whose report of today’s seemingly dire PMQs is, frankly, a masterpiece of richly comic observation.
His description of Cameron as a man who is “slipperier than a jellyfish emerging from an oil-slick” has an almost Wodehousian quality to it, while he describes one Labour backbencher as “a floppy haired Scouser who looks like an angry Beatle”. His greatest description today, though, is of the SNP’s Angus Robertson, of whom he says “the stars that twinkled at his birth allotted him a superhuman store of charmlessness”. There’s every chance we come away from chortling over Evans’ sketch rather more wise in the ways of PMQs than if we’d simply watched it.