As Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer observed in Westminster Abbey the sacred rites in keeping with our established religion, the NHS, Oliver Dowden and Angela Rayner exchanged taunts in the House of Commons.
Rayner criticized Sunak for missing two PMQs in a row (he will be absent from the NATO summit next week) and wondered if the Conservatives “still claim to be the party of home ownership”.
Dowden was unable to say, as generations of conservatives would have done, a direct “yes” to his question. Instead, he said he might surprise Rayner, “but some leaders are relying on their deputies to replace them.”
She retorted that “his gags are getting cheaper.”
Mhairi Black, deputy leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, suggested that the Conservatives and Labor are equally willing to privatize parts of the NHS.
According to the ancient dogma promulgated by Aneurin Bevan in 1948, the NHS must forever remain sacred and undivided state property.
Once again, Dowden made no attempt to comment on the substance of this. He regretted that Black has said that he will retire in the next election. She replied, in a friendly tone, that “I’m pretty sure we’ll leave at the same time.”
Dowden’s majority at Hertsmere is 21,313 – if he loses next time, the Tories will really fare badly.
The black majority in Paisley and Renfrewshire South is 10,679. In 2015 he captured the seat from its Labor incumbent, Douglas Alexander, who in 2010 had held it by 16,614 votes.
Could it be that Black expects his seat to revert to Labor at the next election?
There was an inconsequential sense of end of period in these exchanges, even though the end of the period has not yet arrived.
No one expected serious work to be done, or serious arguments to be made. We are left with taunts and mockery and fake hilarity.