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When Prime Ministers Questions returned on Wednesday it seemed fitting that analysis of a catastrophic train wreck was top of the agenda as three weeks on from the incident near Stonehaven that killed three and rocked the entire Scottish community. That deadly ‘Train wreck’ was emblematic of Boris Johnson and his corrupt cabal’s totally shambolic handling of so many issues over the past few months as there is little doubt we are right on track for a lot more mayhem in the months ahead, unless we demand a full Investigation into the Covert 2019 Rigged Election to derail this Tory Government and force them out of office. Tory MP Andrew Bowie asked for “deepest condolences” to be offered to the family and friends of the three men who died, “as well as our thanks and heartfelt gratitude to the incredible men and women of our emergency services and multiple agencies who worked in incredibly difficult conditions to help the survivors from that incident.” Tories only show huge respect for such vital workers in emergencies!
Bowie said, “The interim report is on the desk of the Transport Secretary as we speak, and I know that the full report will take time to run its course, as is only right, but what assurances can my right hon. Friend give my constituents that the serious questions that they have will be answered, that any recommendations will be implemented and that the Government will do everything they can to prevent an accident like this from ever happening again?” The PM responded by thanking him for raising the matter, added his own condolences and took his customary opportunity to extol the virtues of rescuers by “paying tribute to the extraordinary work of the emergency services and the public for the bravery that they showed.” Boris boasted that, “Britain’s railways are among the safest in Europe, partly because we take accidents like this so seriously, and therefore we must ensure that we learn the lessons of this tragic event to make sure that no such incident recurs in the future.” Tories exploit our dedicated EMS staff: they never learn lessons!
Keir Starmer began by joining the PM in his comments regarding the tragic events of just a few weeks ago followed by paying tribute to John Hume, who died during recess calling him “a beacon of light in the most troubled of times” and saying “He will be seriously missed.” Starmer proceeded by saying, “Let me start today with the exams fiasco. On the day that thousands of young people had their A-level grades downgraded, the Prime Minister said, and I quote him: “The exam results…are robust, they’re good, they’re dependable”. The Education Secretary said there would ‘absolutely’ not be a U-turn; a few days later—a U-turn. We learned yesterday that the Education Secretary knew well in advance that there was a problem with the algorithm, so a straight answer to a straight question, please: when did the Prime Minister first know that there was a problem with the algorithm?”
Boris Johnson stalled by offering birthday greetings then replied, “I say to him, on the exams and the stress that young people have been through over the summer, that both the Secretary of State for Education and I understand very well how difficult it has been for them and for their families, going through a pandemic at a time when we have not been able, because of that pandemic, in common with most other countries in the world, to stage normal examinations. As a result of what we learned about the tests—the results—that had come in, we did institute a change. We did act. The students, the pupils of this country now do have their grades, and I really ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he will join me in congratulating those pupils on their hard work, and whether he agrees with me that they deserve the grades they have got.” He evaded an answer with distracting congratulations.
The only point of Starmer’s question was the need for Education Secretary Williamson to resign. Starmer persisted, “I have already expressed congratulations to all those students and I do so again, but I want to go back to my question, which the Prime Minister avoided. I know why he avoided it, because he either knew of the problem with the algorithm, and did nothing, or he did not know when he should have. Let me ask again: when did the Prime Minister first know that there would be a problem with the algorithm?” Starmer failed to insert another question and the PM was pursuing his standard avoidance strategy; both men had returned to type!
The PM was evasive saying, “As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well, Ofqual made it absolutely clear time and again that in its view the system that was in place was robust. Ofqual is, as he knows, an independent organisation and credit had to be given to its views. All summer long, he has been going around undermining confidence and spreading doubts, in particular about the return to school in safe conditions… It is absolutely true. And today is a great day because the parents, pupils and teachers in this country are overwhelmingly proving him wrong and proving the doubters wrong, because they are going back to school in record numbers, in spite of all the gloom and dubitation that he tried to spread. It would be a fine thing if, today, after three months of refusing to do so, as pupils go back to school, he finally said that school was safe to go back to. Come on!”
Equally capable of baiting, Starmer said, “The Prime Minister is just tin-eared and making it up as he goes along. I am surprised… The Education Secretary stood at that Dispatch Box yesterday and acknowledged that Labour’s first priority has been getting children back to school. That has been our first priority. I have said it numerous times at this Dispatch Box, and the Prime Minister knows it very well. He is just playing games. The Prime Minister is fooling nobody. Even his own MPs have run out of patience. The vice-chair of the 1922 Committee, the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker), has said that the Government are ‘saying one thing on Monday, changing its mind on Tuesday, something different presented on Wednesday.’ That sounds familiar doesn’t it? Another of his MPs, who wisely wants to remain anonymous, is perhaps in the Chamber today. He or she said… I am speaking for you, because this is what was said by his own MPs. He or she said, ‘It’s mess after mess, U-turn after U-turn. It’s a fundamental issue of competence, God knows what is going on. There’s no grip.’ His own MPs are right, aren’t they?” Who’s a naughty boy then?
This was like watching two little boys in the playground as Johnson hit back with, “This is a Leader of the Opposition who backed remaining in the EU and now is totally silent on the subject. Now he has performed a U-turn. He backed that, and perhaps he still does. This is a Leader of the Opposition who supported an IRA-condoning politician who wanted to get out of NATO and now says absolutely nothing about it. This is a Leader of the Opposition who sat on the Front Bench…” He couldn’t have strayed any further from the point and the Speaker lost patience: “Order!” He scolded, “I think that questions are being asked, and we do need to try to answer the questions that have been put to the Prime Minister. It will be helpful to those who are watching to know the answers.”
But the PM was determined to distract and bait Starmer saying, “I think it would be helpful to all those who are watching to know…” The Speaker interrupted again, “Order! Prime Minister, I think I will make the decisions today. Come on!” But spoilt toff Johnson just blathered on, saying, “Mr Speaker, if I may say so, I think it would be helpful to all those who are watching to know that this Opposition, and this Leader of the Opposition, said absolutely nothing to oppose the method of examinations that was proposed and, indeed, they opposed the teacher accreditation system that we eventually came up with. Is he now saying that those grades are not right, or is this just Captain Hindsight leaping on a bandwagon and opposing a policy that he supported two weeks ago?”
Starmer replied, “The problem is that he is governing in hindsight, as well as making so many mistakes. Mr Speaker, before I go on, the Prime Minister said something about the IRA, and I want him to take it back. I worked in Northern Ireland for five years with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, bringing peace. As Director of Public Prosecutions, I prosecuted serious terrorists for five years, working with the intelligence and security forces and with the police in Northern Ireland. I ask the Prime Minister to have the decency to withdraw that comment.” That barb had hit a raw nerve, but he was foolish to let Johnson see his hurt and anguish over the insult. He said, “It is the same every time: pretend the problem does not exist, brush away scrutiny, make the wrong decision, then blame somebody else. This has got to change, because the next major decision for the Prime Minister is on the furlough scheme. The jobs of millions of people are at risk. The longer he delays, the more they are at risk, so will he act now, finally get this decision right and commit to extend the furlough scheme for those sectors and those workers that desperately need it?”
Johnson was defensive, “What we are doing in this Government is getting our pupils back to school, in spite of all the doubts that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has tried to sow, and we are getting people back to work. What he wants to do is extend the furlough scheme, on which this country has already spent £40 billion. What we would rather do is get people into work through our kick-start scheme, which we are launching today—£2 billion to spend to support people, young people in particular, to get the jobs that they need. He wants to keep people out of work in suspended animation. We want to move this country forward. That is the difference between him and us.”
The Speaker intervened, “There was a question about the allegation regarding Northern Ireland, and I was very concerned—that was the point I was making. I think that, in fairness, I am sure you would like to withdraw it.” Surely he didn’t expect Johnson to remove that painful barb that had been so offensive? Johnson doubled down, saying, “Mr Speaker, I am very happy to say that I listened to the protestations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I think they would have been more in order, throughout the long years in which he supported a leader of the Labour party.” The Speaker had to concede; expecting decency, let alone an apology from Johnson would never be an option. The Speaker announced, “We are leaving it as it was. I call Keir Starmer.”
Starmer shouldn’t have revealed such vulnerability; unable to let the matter drop he said, ”When the Prime Minister has worked with the security and intelligence forces on prosecuting criminals and terrorists, he can lecture me. I asked him to do the decent thing, but doing the decent thing and this Prime Minister don’t go together.” Stating the obvious he returned to his familiar ‘who’s been a naughty boy’ tactic and still failed to articulate a real question, “This has been a wasted summer. The Government should have spent it preparing for the autumn and winter. Instead, they have lurched from crisis to crisis, U-turn to U-turn. To correct one error, even two, might make sense, but when the Government have notched up 12 U-turns and rising, the only conclusion is serial incompetence. That serial incompetence is holding Britain back. Will the Prime Minister take responsibility and finally get a grip?”
Johnson needed to reinvent his litany of disasters as a resounding success story! He said, “I take full responsibility for everything that has happened under this Government throughout my period in office. Actually, what has happened so far is that we have succeeded in turning the tide of this pandemic, and, despite the negativity and constant sniping from the Opposition, we are seeing a country that is not only going back to school but going back to work. Britain is in the lead in developing vaccines and in finding cures for this disease—dexamethasone—and treatments for this disease. Not only that, but we are taking this country forward, despite the extreme difficulties we face. What I think the people of this country would appreciate is the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I, the Labour Front-Bench team and everybody across this House coming together, uniting and saying that it is safe for kids to get back to school. I must say that we still have not heard those words from him. Will he now say, ‘School is safe’?”
Starmer now allowed Boris to bait him into agreement, saying, “I have said it so many times. School is safe. My own children have been in school throughout. There is no issue on this. The Prime Minister is seeking to divide, instead… I wrote to him on 18 May, in confidence and in private, offering my support to him to get kids back to school. The only reason they were not back before the summer was because of his incompetent Education Secretary.” There is zero accountability from Cabinet Minister as Civil Servants are ousted; the Johnson/Cummings dictatorship value loyalty far more than competence from the compliant Tory cabal in office.
Starmer limped on, a wounded beast trying to regain his dignity as he said, “The Prime Minister will recall that before the recess I asked him whether he would meet the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK group. I had the privilege of meeting the families on 15 July. They gave me incredibly moving accounts of how covid-19 had taken their loved ones from them. On Sky News last week, the Prime Minister was asked whether he would meet the families and he said: ‘of course I will meet…the bereaved—-of course I will do that.’ But yesterday they received a letter from the Prime Minister saying that meeting them was now ‘regrettably not possible’. The Prime Minister will understand the frustration and the hurt of those families that he said one thing to camera and another to them. May I urge him to reconsider, and to do the right thing and find time to meet these grieving families?”
Johnson replied, “May I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it is absolutely typical of him that he should frame it in that way? Of course I am very happy to meet the families and the bereaved and I sympathise deeply with all those who have lost loved ones throughout this pandemic; we all feel their pain and their grief. But it turns out that this particular group he refers to are currently in litigation against the Government, and I will certainly meet them once that litigation is concluded.” This was a typical cowardly stance to avoid accountability for his shambolic handling of the crisis. Egged on by Starmer’s concession he wanted more grovelling from this inept Labour Leader. He continued on the offensive with, “I say to him that it would be a better thing if, rather than trying to score points in that way, he joined together with this Government and said not only that school is safe to go back to..”
He continued baiting Starmer in the hope of eliciting more grovelling compliance instead of genuine opposition, “By the way, that is the first time in four months that he has said it, so I am delighted to have extracted it from him over this Dispatch Box… He has never said it to me in the House of Commons. I hope he will also say that it is safe for the workforce of this country to go back to work in a covid-secure way. We want to take this country forward. Not only are we getting the pandemic under control, with deaths down and hospital admissions way, way down, but we will continue to tackle it, with local lockdowns and with our superlative test and trace system, which, before Opposition Members sneer and mock it, has now conducted more tests than any other country in Europe. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might hail that, rather than sneering at this country’s achievements.”
Tory MP David Jones obviously hadn’t got the memo on not mentioning Brexit because his question was on tariffs, “Discussions in the Joint Committee established under the withdrawal agreement will have the most crucial bearing on the future of trade, not only between the UK and the EU but within the UK itself. Unless otherwise agreed in that Committee, goods passing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be subject to the full rigour of the European customs code and to the imposition of tariffs. That would be quite unacceptable, so will my right hon. Friend commit to do whatever it takes to ensure that it does not happen?” Johnson had to just lie his way out of this one; uttering pure Boris-shit he said, “My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the concern that he does. We must, of course—and will—deliver on what the protocol says, which is that there shall be unfettered access between GB and NI, and NI and GB, and there shall be no tariffs. We will legislate in the course of the next months to guarantee that.”
SNP Ian Blackford MP said, “May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on the tragedy that we witnessed close to Stonehaven, and indeed with the Leader of the Opposition’s tribute to John Hume—a man who did so much for the delivery of peace in the island of Ireland? Yesterday the Prime Minister told his Cabinet: ‘I am no great nautical expert but sometimes it is necessary to tack here…in response to the facts as they change’. It was surprisingly honest for the Prime Minister to admit that his Government are all at sea—a UK Government now defined by eight U-turns in eight months. But if the Prime Minister is true to his word, surely he must see sense and change tack for a ninth time. With the clock ticking for struggling businesses and workers, will the Prime Minister commit today to extend the job retention scheme beyond October—or are Boris’s Government making the political choice to accept levels of unemployment last seen under Thatcher in the early 1980s?”
I would say the PMs ‘tacks’ were more like ‘crash gybes;’ at sea an uncontrolled gybe can result in serious injury or broken gear! The epitome of Johnson’s reckless conduct, but he took onboard one recurring message as he replied, “Opposition Members of all parties seem to want to extend the furlough scheme, which has already cost the country £40 billion. It has supported 11 million people, but, after all, keeps them in suspended animation and prevents them from going to work. We want to get people back to work, and that is why I hope the right hon. Gentleman will instead support our kick-start scheme to get young people into jobs and support them in those jobs. How much better is that than languishing out of work?” So brace for sustained waves of unemployment then!
Blackford corrected him saying, “My goodness, ‘languishing out of work’; the furlough scheme is there to protect people so that they can come back to work when the time is right. France, Germany and Ireland have extended their furlough schemes until 2021. They have made a moral choice. They are not prepared to punish their people with record levels of unemployment. People in Scotland are seeing a tale of two Governments. While the Tories are cutting furlough scheme support, yesterday Nicola Sturgeon was announcing new investment to protect jobs, including a youth guarantee. We all know that jobs are under threat if the furlough scheme ends in October. The power to end this threat lies with the Prime Minister. Will he do his duty and extend the furlough scheme, or are we going to return to levels of unemployment last seen under Thatcher, with the resultant human misery?”
Determined to refuse an extension, at least for now, the PM said, “We are not only continuing with the furlough scheme until the end of this month, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, a scheme that is far more generous by the way, than anything provided in France, Germany or Ireland. We are continuing with that scheme, but after it elapses we will get on with other measures to support people in work. Starting today, there is the kick-start scheme to help young people to get the jobs that they need. That is in addition to a £160 billion package that we have spent to support the economy throughout this crisis. The Government have put their arms around all the people of this country to support them throughout the crisis. That is what we are doing, and we will now help them to get back into work.” Oh no, not another deadly Tory death hug! Tory arms around the Care Homes led to a ‘Holocaust in Care!’
The dire situation we are in could get really bad with another Tory Government ‘train crash’ coming down the track very shortly as the infection rate rises due to increased transmission in schools, work places and on public transport. Johnson isn’t on solid ground with concerns growing among backbench Tory MPs over his chaotic leadership; Boris Johnson is all at sea and floundering with yet more ‘crash gybes’ imminent. That deadly crash-out Brexit iceberg is dead ahead and he is refusing to turn away from the inevitable ‘Titanic’ disaster; the Titanic success’ of Brexiteer fantasy land is fading fast. Just as that unsinkable ship sank and many innocent souls perished, many will die due to Johnson accepting Cummings’s delusional ‘Herd Nerd’ plan. Keir Starmer is revelling in his role as the ‘Captain of Capitulation,’ offering zero opposition to the Tories and sabotaging Labour from within. Cummings and both these rogue Captains need to walk the plank before they completely scupper any hope of the UK not sinking into the abyss. DO NOT MOVE ON!