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Lindsay Hoyle is Determined to Depart from Bercow’s Legacy
While it is clear that new parliamentary arithmetic makes it inevitable that rowdiness during Wednesday lunchtimes in the Commons will be reduced dramatically, rendering interventions less necessary, new Speaker Lindsay Hoyle seems to have a strong desire to make a shift away from the tainted legacy of his predecessor John Bercow. Throughout the relatively uneventful session today, Hoyle acted as a true impartial umpire, with no bumbling self-celebratory interruptions about sedentary positions or soothing medicaments. Instead, he gave MPs the time and space to ask crucial questions on behalf of their constituents. Hoyle’s father, the Labour peer Doug Hoyle, watched his son proudly from the public gallery as Sir Lindsay presided over a non-theatrical, mature session of debate.
Boris Johnson is Out of Campaigning Mode
Boris Johnson mentioned ‘Get Brexit Done’ once, but domestic and European issues were largely overshadowed by the crisis in the Middle East triggered by the assassination of General Soleimani. Johnson did not turn to his members for raucous expressions of support, nor did he repetitively scruff up his blonde mop so characteristic of his burbling London mayoral reputation. Johnson looked smart and spoke smartly. He dove deep into UK foreign policy positions which sounded more sympathetic to our European partners than the US, in a shift away from his Brexiteer Atlanticism. Johnson repeatedly referenced his joint statement by the ‘E3’ (the UK, France, and Germany) in support of Gulf de-escalation, whilst criticising American antagonism. Johnson’s keenness to present himself as a moderate in control of his various party factions has succeeded today.
The PM’s Biggest Worry is Scottish Independence
The Prime Minister’s strongest attack lines were directed at SNP representatives who asked about the prospects of a second independence referendum. Johnson expressed support for the Scottish people’s embrace of the Union in the first 2014 vote. He also shut down the SNP’s repetitive Westminster leader Ian Blackford with increasing ire and frustration while defending the alleged fairness and sustainability of the United Kingdom. Every one of the Scottish MPs allowed to interrogate the PM by Speaker Hoyle spoke on the issue of independence, which fuels the Conservative argument that the SNP is deflecting away from their poor management of domestic issues.
Corbyn is Still Dithering
Yesterday in the Commons, Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn refused three times to say whether he considered Qasem Soleimani a terrorist, instilling perceptions that he is soft on foreign policy and defence. Today, Boris Johnson continued on the attack as Corbyn became tied up with questions of the legality of the attack on Iran. Corbyn, as Sky’s Adam Boulton insensitively put it, is ‘on his way out‘, and the toxicity of his furious head-banging style of probing clearly demonstrated why. On his right sat deputy leadership contender Dawn Butler, a looming symbol of Corbynism’s impending return to the history books.