Like flesh-eating zombies, they all had a good chew: HENRY DEEDES sees Tory MPs turn on the Government over foreign aid
Hollywood films during the Cold War followed a simple formula: Good Yanks attacked, evil Commies surrendered, audiences cheered. The defeat of the Red Peril changed all that. It was all racy, paranoid thrillers about government conspiracies and dark cover-ups. Suddenly America was the baddy.
Anyone watching yesterday afternoon’s events in the House of Commons might have been forgiven for thinking a similar about-turn had taken place in the Conservative Party.
Bored senseless, possibly, by an ineffectual Labour Party, Tory MPs have decided this week to go after their own ministers.
Pictured: Treasury minister Steve Barclay making a statement to the House of Commons in Westminster, London, on the foreign aid budget ahead of a parliamentary debate earlier today
Their beef: The decision to cut the international aid budget, an expendable issue to most ordinary voters yet for some reason deemed by politicians more sacred than the Turin Shroud.
For just shy of three hours, Tories lined up like flesh-eating zombies to sink their gummy dentures into the Government – parliamentary newbies, cherry-nosed grandees, ex-ministers. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Even an ex-prime minister pitched up for a good chew.
The emergency debate was secured by Andrew Mitchell (Con, Sutton Coldfield) whose wily attempt to secure a vote on the matter the previous day was thwarted by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
‘Thrasher’ has cut a mildly conspiratorial figure around the House ever since his career disappeared down the plughole in 2012 following that messy ‘Plebgate’ business.
The emergency debate on the cut to international aid was secured by Tory MP Andrew Mitchell (pictured) whose wily attempt to secure a vote on the matter the previous day was thwarted
That sardonic smile and rangy gait speaks of hushed chats and large brandies in the Commons tea room.
For all his compassion for the developing world, Mr Mitchell is perhaps not a man one would wish to have to share a bottle of water with while traversing a desert. He gave a fiery speech as one would expect, describing the aid cut as ‘unethical and unlawful betrayal’.
He said the 2 per cent cut amounted to just £4billion – easily affordable in his view. Barely more than a ‘rounding error’ he added nonchalantly. (Note to self: best avoid whichever beancounter does Mr Mitchell’s tax returns for him.)
With him sat David Davis (Con, Haltemprice and Howden), laughing and chivvying his pal along with encouraging bon mots.
David Davis (Con, Haltemprice and Howden), sat with fellow Tory MP Andrew Mitchell laughing and chivvying his pal along with encouraging bon mots during debate on foreign aid budget
Mr Davis, something of a recent convert to the world of international development, seemed to be enjoying himself. He bathes in mischief the way a bear might gleefully drench its snout in honey.
Enter a chill wind. Had maintenance staff finally given us a fan up in the press gallery? God knows we need one this week. No, Theresa May was simply up on her feet.
Mrs May, defying the sweltering temperatures in a thick grey jacket, narrowed her peepers and tilted her head. She described the Government’s decision as ‘damaging to the UK’.
When she sat down there followed that usual prickly silence which accompanies her speeches. Reminds me of school chapel after the chaplain had given a particularly bleak sermon.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May described Government’s decision as ‘damaging to the UK’
On and on went the Tory rebels. Steve Brine (Con, Winchester) described the £4billion saving as a ‘small amount’. That’ll go down a storm on the south coast, I’m sure.
Ex-Northern Ireland minister Karen Bradley gave a clappy, Kumbaya sort of speech about Britain needing to enrich itself by leading the world.
Must say I hadn’t the faintest idea what she was talking about. Support for the Government meanwhile was scarce.
Former culture secretary Maria Miller pointed out these were not normal times and that our largesse really couldn’t continue as usual.
Pictured: on Labour’s front bench sat with deputy leader Angela Rayner, shadow international development secretary Preet Kaur Gill described the cut as ‘an insult to the British people’
Similarly, Steve Double (Con, St Austell and Newquay) said ‘disproportional’ levels of spending during the pandemic meant tough choices had to be made.
He took issue with Mitchell’s earlier description of £4billion as a mere ‘rounding error’.
To be fair, among Mitchell’s investment banking chums that’s probably their annual bonus pot.
There was plenty of am dram theatrics over on the Opposition benches. Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds C) waved his arms like a football manager in a dug out.
On Labour’s frontbench sat deputy leader Angela Rayner, pictured sporting a racy leopard print catsuit.
Yowzers! Next to Ange, shadow international development secretary Preet Kaur Gill described the Government aid cut as ‘an insult to the British people’.
Have voters actually told her that? Regrettable as it is, my suspicion is most of them are more concerned about getting their freedoms back on June 21.
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