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Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson began Prime Minister’s Questions with a brutally blunt point that directly targeted the lawless Tory Government. She asked, “If Ministers think it is acceptable for this Government to not obey the law, how on earth can the Prime Minister expect the public at home to do so?” Boris Johnson briskly swatted her query aside like a bothersome fly, he curtly said, “We expect everybody in this country to obey the law.” Tory Sir Robert Neil asked the PM to pledge Government support for Gibraltar and he might well ask now the Tories have openly stated that they are prepared to renege on International treaties? Johnson failed to consider a connection as he praised the rock for choosing to remain British. There are other treaties and commitments our current EU partners might wish to tear up: France might leave the UK to handle migrants on arrival in the UK rather than dealing with a growing number of refugees on their shores: Johnson will soon discover that other countries can play dirty too.
Keir Starmer started into a familiar PMQ routine, saying, “Yesterday, I spoke to a mum who lives in London. She has a four-year-old daughter, who had a very high temperature yesterday morning. She phoned 111, and was told to get a test. She tried to book, and was told the nearest was Romford. That was 9 o’clock in the morning. She explored that, but there were no tests there. She was then told Haywards Heath, halfway to Brighton—on exploration, no tests there. By lunch time, this mum was told the nearest place was Telford or Inverness. A slot became available in Lee Valley in the afternoon—one slot—but, unfortunately, that was being offered across the country, including to people in Manchester, and it was impossible to book. At 9 o’clock last night, she was told the nearest centre was Swansea. This is, frankly, ridiculous. Who does the Prime Minister think is responsible for this?”
Johnson replied, “Clearly, I take responsibility, as I have done throughout, for the entire handling of the coronavirus crisis, but I would just say to those who attack NHS Test and Trace, and those who deprecate the efforts of the people who are doing their level best to keep us safe, that it is precisely because of the success of test and trace that capacity has gone up from 2,000 a month in March to 320,000 a day. We know, thanks to NHS Test and Trace, in granular detail, in a way that we did not earlier this year, about what is happening with this pandemic. We know the groups that are suffering, the extent of the infection rates, and we have been able, thanks to NHS Test and Trace, to do the local lockdowns that have been working.” No, actually it most certainly not clear that the PM takes personal responsibility for the shambolic mess the Tories have made of controlling Covid 19.
Johnson was following his familiar PMQ format, not answering the question, reframing the disaster as if it were a really resounding success, moving on to selecting a target for assigning blame and culminating with criticism of Starmer for not showering those who are managing a totally dysfunctional system with effusive praise. He continued, “We also know that, alas, some people have not been following the guidance in the way that they should and, therefore, we are seeing a rise in infections, and that is why today we are taking decisive steps to intensify our social distancing measures—the rule of six that will be familiar to the country—in order that we can keep our economy going, that we can keep our schools open and keep this virus under control. I hope that he will support those measures and, indeed, support NHS Test and Trace.” It’s an extraordinary tactic that takes a lot of gall!
Starmer compliantly supplied support saying, “I will hear the measures later on, but we will in principle support them, as I have supported all the measures the Prime Minister has introduced, as he well knows. It is the right thing to do, and I have asked people to follow Government advice at every opportunity. Nobody is attacking here. The Prime Minister needs to know how anxious hundreds of families are. In the past few weeks, they have been sent all over the country or told there are no tests. It cannot be brushed off. Earlier this year, the Health Secretary said: ‘Anybody who needs a test can get a test, and it’s the most important thing that you can do to stop the spread of this virus.’ This is a very serious issue, but the Government line on it seems to be changing all the time. Yesterday, the director of NHS Test and Trace said, ‘Can I…offer my…apologies to anyone who cannot get a covid test…it’s our laboratory processing’ that is the problem’.”
We patiently awaited a second question, but Starmer settled for a variant of the same question. He said, “This morning, the Health Secretary changed tack and appeared to blame the public. I note that he made a statement yesterday and faced questions but he did not say anything about the excuse that he puts forward this morning that emerged overnight. So who is right—the director of Test and Trace, who says it is a laboratory problem, or the Health Secretary, who says it is the public’s fault?” Johnson’s reply included more blame, bragging and ridiculous demands for approval. He said, “I, of course, sympathise with all those who are facing difficulties getting a test as fast as they want, but demand is at an unprecedented high, particularly because of demand for asymptomatic patients, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman should know that this country has done more tests—17.6 million—than any other country in Europe. He likes international comparisons.” Boris had not finished expansive bragging…
Johnson blathered on, “That is thanks to the efforts of NHS Test and Trace, which is, in my view, doing an absolutely heroic job in spite of the difficulties that it faces. It has massively raised its output and it will be up to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October. This is an organisation that is working heroically to contain the spread of the disease, and it requires the public to trust the organisation and to participate. Yesterday, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it was on the verge of collapse. I think that those were ill-chosen words. I think he now regrets those words. I think he should reflect and he should take them back.” Sure why not try to get the opposition to apologise for not unreservedly praising the Tory Government failures, that’s ripe!
Starmer stuck to the first question, “Hundreds of families have been trying to get a test in the last week, and they cannot get one. I do acknowledge the number of tests overall, but this is basic stuff. People who have got covid symptoms are very anxious about themselves, their children, their families and what to do. It means they cannot go to work and they cannot send their children to school. It matters, and if they cannot get tests the Prime Minister needs to take responsibility and not just tell us about the future or something else, but address this problem.” He said, “I want to take it further, because it is not just that people are being told to go hundreds of miles. Somebody contacted me yesterday and said: ‘My wife has a temperature and they said we needed to isolate and get a test done. I have been trying to book a test’. This is yesterday, Prime Minister. They continued: ‘the site says, ‘No capacity’. Then I tried for a home test kit and they are telling me that there are no kits available at present.’ That is the situation yesterday. Yesterday, there were no tests available in London and it was the same the day before. Prime Minister, what is happening?”
Johnson indignantly replied, “I note that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not take back his criticism and his attack on NHS Test and Trace, and I regret that. I gave him the opportunity to withdraw his verdict that it was on the verge of collapse: it is not. It is doing a heroic job and testing hundreds of thousands of people. Yes, we will do more, and the world we want to move to as fast as possible is a world in which everybody can take enabling tests at the beginning of the day and antigen tests to identify whether or not we have the virus., like a pregnancy test, within 15 minutes or so, so that we know whether we are able to live our lives as normally as possible. That is the vision that the Health Secretary and others have been sketching out over the last few days and that is where we intend to get to.” Warning the Tories are about to trot out another fanciful unicorn to dance on the sunny uplands!
This back and forth banter was like watching tennis, equally boring and monotonous. One more hit from the PM, “In the meantime, NHS Test and Trace is doing a heroic job, and today I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that most people get an in-person test result within 24 hours, and the median journey is under 10 miles if someone has to take a journey to get one.” Starmer hit back still harping on the same unanswered question, he said, “We all want test, trace and isolate to succeed, and I have offered my support before. The Prime Minister is ignoring the problem: if people are being told to go hundreds of miles, something is wrong. This has got a lot worse in the past week or two—all Members of the House know that, because they have all had constituents telling them that. The Prime Minister talks about capacity. The latest Government figures were updated last night. They show that, on average, 75,000 tests are not being used every day. If 75,000 tests are not being used, why yesterday were people being told to go hundreds of miles for a test? Why yesterday were people being told that there is no capacity?”
Johnson returned with a weak excuse, “The issue at the moment is that there has been a massive increase in the number of people who need or want tests, particularly people who do not have symptoms. We need—I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees—to prioritise people such as NHS front-line staff and our care workers who urgently need those tests. As we massively increase the number of tests, it is those groups who are getting priority.” Determined to defend Tallyho Harding, he said, “The right hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong in what he says about the failure of NHS Test and Trace, so let me tell him that of those contacts who supply details, 80% are reached, and 320,000 people have been persuaded to self-isolate and stop the spread of the disease. That is the British people ignoring the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s attempt to undermine confidence in test and trace. They are ignoring his attempt to undermine confidence, and working together to get this disease defeated.”
Starmer insisted, “I am listening carefully to what the Prime Minister says, and what is undermining confidence is families being told to go hundreds of miles and they cannot get a test. That is undermining confidence. I just want this fixed. We do not need to have an argument. What is the problem? The Prime Minister should accept that there is a problem, tell us what the solution is, and we will all muck in, try to make it better, and tell our constituents. I have been listening. Is the Prime Minister saying that too many people are coming forward for tests and that it is a capacity problem, or not? People are trying to do the right thing. They want to go back to work. We want children back in schools. The Prime Minister is encouraging that—quite right too—and we understand and support that. The Government side of the bargain was to deliver an effective test, trace and isolate scheme, but two weeks into September there is a glaring hole. Will the Prime Minister tell the House when he first knew about this particular problem of people having to go hundreds of miles, or that tests were not going to be available? It is in the last week that this issue has arisen. When did he first know that that was a problem?”
The return fire was yet more self-congratulatory Boris-shit, “It is obviously a function of the growing demand and growing public confidence in NHS Test and Trace that we have to supply more and more tests, and that is what we have been doing. I do not know whether you have been listening, Mr Speaker, but I have been trying to give the House the figures. Thanks to the heroic efforts of NHS Test and Trace, we have gone up from 2,000 tests a day in March to 320,000 a day today. That is thanks to the efforts of thousands of people, who are listening keenly to the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman for some support, encouragement or belief in what they are trying to do. Thanks to them, on average, people have to travel less than 10 miles, and thanks to them, 80% of the contacts that they or a coronavirus patient identify are reached and told to self-isolate. That is what we are trying to do. It is hard work. It is a big job, and they are doing a fantastic job. I think that what they would like to hear is some praise, encouragement and support from the right hon. and learned Gentleman.”
Starmer wasted his last shot on “who’s a naughty boy then?” “Why can we not just hear from the Prime Minister an honest answer? If he stood at the Dispatch Box and said, ‘I know something’s gone wrong in the last couple of weeks. We have been getting hundreds of examples of people being sent all over the place or being told there is no test. I have looked into it. I have worked out what the problem is and here is my plan’, people might be reassured. But, as ever, he pretends the problem is not there. The infection rate is rising. This is the very point at which we need a functioning testing regime. Far from the ‘world-beating’ system we were promised, the Government cannot even get the basics right. The Government are lurching from crisis to crisis. They still lack even basic incompetence—They lack competence. Yes, Prime Minister, they lack competence, and that is what is holding Britain back. My final question is this: when is the problem with test, trace and isolate going to be fixed?” The score a pathetic six-love!
Johnson was free to whack the ball right out of the court now, “I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman was on the money when he said that this Government lacked incompetence. I just say to him that we are working flat out to address all the issues confronting us today, including trying to get the infection rate down, and we are getting on with taking the tough decisions and making the tough calls that will take this country forward.” PMQs became PMs assault as continued on the attack, “When it came to saying schools were safe, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was silent because he did not want to offend his union bosses. When left-wing anarchists tried to destroy the freedom of the press, he was silent because for some reason he did not want to offend crusty left-wing anarchists.” Despite the fact that Starmer had readily capitulated on both issues, Johnson reinvented his complicity.
Johnson was disappointed Starmer had not mentioned the latest cherry–bomb probably planted by Cummings. He had the answer ready to serve, but that ball wasn’t coming his way, “When it comes, by the way, to sticking up for our UK internal market and for delivering on the will of the British people—one of the most important issues facing us today—he is totally silent on the Bill that obsesses the rest of his Back Benchers. He is totally silent. A great ox once again has stood on his tongue. He has nothing at all to say about that subject today, because he does not want to offend the huge number of his Back Benchers who want to overturn the verdict of the people and take us back into the EU, which is of course what he wants to do himself.” Johnson was so pleased with the way Starmer let him turn PMQs into a perpetual self-congratulatory Spin show, but he felt let down over the one thing unasked.
Johnson continued bragging about issues that had not yet been raised by questioners, reframing the whole intent of PMQs. He said, “This Government get on and take the tough decisions on behalf of the British people, delivering thousands of jobs through our kickstart scheme, record-breaking investment in affordable housing with a £12 billion programme, and getting on with all our work, working with the British people and working with the right hon. and learned Gentleman—if he would only do so—to get coronavirus defeated and to take our country forward. We make the tough calls; all he does is sit on the sidelines and carp.” In a similar vein Tory Andrew Lewer sought praise for armed forces who had given logistical support of the NHS, councils and volunteers during the lockdown. Johnson responded to the ‘stroking’ saying, “Indeed, I salute the work of the entire armed services in what they have done across the whole of our United Kingdom to help us fight coronavirus.”
SNP Leader Ian Blackford asked, “Shortly, the Government will publish their internal market proposals. I have seen them. They are nothing short of an attack on Scotland’s Parliament and an affront to the people of Scotland. As we have already heard, this legislation breaks international law, but it also breaks domestic law. The Prime Minister and his friends—a parcel o’ rogues—are creating a rogue state where the rule of law does not apply. Why does the Prime Minister think that he and his friends are above the law? Johnson excelled at calling black, white with such conviction that the truth is supplanted by Boris-shit. He said, “On the contrary, the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill is about protecting jobs, protecting growth and ensuring the fluidity and safety of our UK internal market and prosperity throughout the United Kingdom. It should be welcomed, I believe, in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and throughout the whole country.”
Blackford raised the obvious question that Starmer was too cowardly to ask, sharply chastising the PM he said, “Of course, we saw the Prime Minister breaking the law last year with the Prorogation of Parliament. We have seen the behaviour of Dominic Cummings, and we know that the Government are prepared to break their international obligations. What the Prime Minister said is complete rubbish, and the Prime Minister knows it. His own White Paper was clear that state aid is going to be grabbed back from Scotland and handed to Westminster. If the Prime Minister will not listen to the Scottish Government, will he listen to the National Farmers Union Scotland president, who warned that the proposals ‘limit’ the devolved Administrations? The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warned that they will ‘create new reservations in areas of devolved competence.’ The General Teaching Council for Scotland has warned that the proposals undermine devolved education functions. That, Mr Speaker, is the reality.”
He said, “Scotland is speaking out, and I state that the Scottish Parliament will reject this attack on devolution, so the question is: will the Prime Minister break domestic law, disregard the settled will of the Scottish people, ignore the concerns of Scotland’s communities and press ahead with this Bill? The time for Scotland’s place as an independent, international, law-abiding nation is almost here. Our time has come.” Johnson was adamant, “The answer is that yes, indeed, we will press on with the Bill, because I believe that the right hon. Gentleman’s attacks on it are totally illogical. It actually represents a substantial transfer of powers and of sovereignty to Scotland, to Wales, to Northern—it is a massive devolutionary act. What it also does is—I believe this is common ground across the Dispatch Box— It also ensures the integrity of the UK internal market. He speaks of a transfer of powers to the UK Government. On the contrary, what he would do is transfer powers back to Brussels not just over competition and state aid but, of course, over fisheries too. That is the policy of the Scottish nationalist party, and it would be a disaster for our country.”
The Speaker intervened saying, “I am sure that the leader of the SNP would like to withdraw that last comment about being a liar. No hon. Member would do that. Please withdraw it.” Blackford protested saying, “Mr Speaker, it is on the face of the Bill that the Government of the UK are going to trample over devolution. That is not a lie.” The Speaker replied, “Mr Blackford, you are a great Member of this House. You do the right things by this House, and I have accepted that you have withdrawn it.” The convention that no MP calls another a liar during debates in the chamber is quaint, but now insults those who are habitually lied to by the dishonest pathological liar who is our PM. It would be more appropriate to rule that the PM and all politicians should be harshly sanctioned for telling lies; get the “Porkies out of Politics:” time to “scoop the PooP!” If lies were already sanctioned we would not have this gang of charlatans in power because they no one would have believed the Covert 2019 Rigged Election result, we would have Investigated ant ousted them. DO NOT MOVE ON!