QUENTIN LETTS: Amateur nudist Sir Bernard Jenkin chaired the liason committee with all the authority of Piglet as Rishi Sunak was questioned
Twenty-one years ago that maniac Tony Blair submitted himself for examination by the Commons liaison committee, the elected house’s windiest grandees.
It started a dreadful custom and yesterday Rishi Sunak played ninety minutes of near-pointless political ping-pong with the current liaison committee’s has-beens, kicking against the dying of the day.
Of the Blair event in 2002, I realise a third of its participants are now in their coffins. The one I miss is Gwyneth Dunwoody, who would wiggle her pinkies at me across the room, like Olly Hardy signalling to Stan Laurel.
Labour’s Gwyneth had a WC Fields nose and she was scrumptious. When Tony entered the room she blew sarcastic kisses and fluttered her eyelashes. He hadn’t a clue how to handle her.
Five souls from that 2002 liaison committee are now in the Lords, which is much the same as being dead.
‘Rishi Sunak (pictured) played ninety minutes of near-pointless political ping-pong with the current liaison committee’s has-beens,’ Quentin Letts wrote
Sunak appeared in front of the liaison committee on Tuesday
The liaison committee has 33 current members, with all but one being from the Labour and Conservative parties
Only three (Sir Edward Leigh, Sir Michael Fabricant and the rouge-cheeked panto dame Barry Sheerman) are still in the Commons and since then we have had six changes of PM.
You will forgive me if I view these proceedings as one might a sand-sculpture competition. The artwork may look impressive but it will soon be washed away by the tide… We all are, eventually. Only yesterday they held Alistair Darling’s funeral in Edinburgh.
In sashayed Mr Sunak with a fat red folder and quite a camp walk. The trio of No 10 aides behind him were even riper.
Two, I swear, were being played by David Walliams in Little Britain. ‘On the dot!’ squeaked Sir Bernard Jenkin with delight. Amateur nudist Sir Bernard (Con, Harwich & N Essex) chairs the committee with all the command of Piglet.
He is obsessed with time-keeping. ‘Brief questions, brief answers!’ he piped. After a classic ramble from Sir Bill Cash (Con, Stone) that no one understood, Sir Bernard slapped his forehead and groaned ‘a two minute question!’ Sarah Champion (Lab, Rotherham) earned a gold star. ‘Under time – excellent!’ cried Piglet.
One of the tiresome things about liaison sessions is that some MPs come over all tough. The normally courteous Champion tried this, talking over Mr Sunak’s answers and asking, with overdone irony, ‘do you consider yourself a leader on the international stage?’
‘Amateur nudist Sir Bernard (pictured) chairs the committee with all the command of Piglet,’ Letts said
Then she started whingeing that we were not spending more on international aid. Was Mr Sunak proud of himself for being, in so many words, a child killer?
She also reckoned that if we sent more aid to Yemen, Iran-backed pirates might not be causing trouble in the Persian Gulf. Oh come off it.
Alicia Kearns (Con, Rutland & Melton) lumbered into the fray, curling her lip as she attacked the PM over the Israel-Gaza crisis.
Newish Ms Kearns, doing much eyebrow work to convey sophistication, referred to Lord Cameron as ‘your foreign secretary’ and ‘your current foreign secretary’.
She also referred to the US president as ‘Biden’, without any honorific. You wouldn’t want to be behind Alicia when the Ferrero Rocher is doing its rounds on the diplomatic-circuit salver. She’d tip the lot into her handbag and stomp off, munching.
On we lurched. Liam Byrne (Lab, Hodge Hill) promoted his views on poverty, on which he has just written a book.
Angus MacNeil (Ind, Western Isles) honked away in a voice so echoey and indistinct, it was amazing Mr Sunak knew how to respond.
Dame Caroline Dinenage (Con, Gosport) wanted more money for the Royal National Theatre, as if stage excellence was dependent on public subsidy (the reverse is probably truer).
Caroline Nokes (Con, Romsey), a right Lady Snoot, drawled out of one nostril. Next to her sat a little man whom I mistakenly mistook for a chap who had wandered in from a bus stop queue by accident.
Turned out he was the chairman of the environment select committee.
Or at least he is today. Tomorrow, next month, next year? Who knows? Nothing lasts. We are but catkins on the breeze.
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