There once was a time when PMQs was must-see viewing for any self-respecting politico.
MPs would literally wrestle each other on the green benches to secure a decent perch.
Five minutes ahead the midday kick-off, as necks craned like ostriches, the whole chamber throbbed with that thrilling hum of anticipation you get at a racecourse moments before the first race.
News channels would hand over sections of its programming to dissect the key flashpoints.
Conservative MPs have privately explained that since they can no longer bring themselves to defend the Prime Minister (pictured in the House of Commons chamber yesterday) they no longer see the point in attending.
Corbyn gushed over Doris Day, the recently departed Hollywood actress who hailed from California
Global audiences gawped in marvel at our confrontational style of politics.
Sometimes, the odd celebrity would even be spotted up in the public gallery. Nowadays we can only dream of such excitement.
For former devotees, watching the Prime Minister’s weekly Wednesday grilling is like sitting through a once unmissable drama that has since been rendered unwatchable through the sheer ineptitude of its leading dramatis personae.
In Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn we currently have a pair of leaders blessed with all the oratorical talent of two tongue-tied koalas.
Most of the time, their exchanges across the dispatch box wouldn’t trouble the pimply members of a sixth form debating society.
As for atmosphere, I’ve experienced more buzz watching indoor bowls. Around the chamber, empty spaces are now commonplace.
In Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn we currently have a pair of leaders blessed with all the oratorical talent of two tongue-tied koalas, writes Henry Deedes
Conservative MPs have privately explained that since they can no longer bring themselves to defend the Prime Minister they no longer see the point in attending.
It is perhaps revealing that as Mrs May loitered by the Speaker’s chair before the start, the only person she chatted to with much interest was her former bag carrier, now junior health minister, Seema Kennedy.
We kicked off with a few tributes.
Again, what a nonsense these have now become. Corbyn gushed over Doris Day, the recently departed Hollywood actress who hailed from California.
He also insisted on congratulating Barry Sheerman (Lab – Huddersfield) and Frank Field (Ind – Birkenhead) on marking 40 years since their election. Never one to be outdone, the Speaker made a big fuss over the visiting speaker of the Botswanan parliament.
Corbyn then focused his attack on wealthy Tory donors, filthy hedge funders in particular. Attack? Apologies, it was nothing of the sort – just the usual inane rubbish.
We plodded on for another uneventful half an hour when – oh joy! – a fire alarm interrupted a question from Antoinette Sandbach (Con –Eddisbury). Alas, the Speaker announced there was no need for us to evacuate.
Speaker John Bercow presides over PMQs yesterday where he declared that a fire alarm was no reason to evacuate
Then, just as it looked as though Mrs May had survived relatively unscathed, up popped yet another call from one of her own to stand aside, this time from Peter Bone (Con – Wellingborough) who announced that Conservative volunteers in his constituency complain they have lost confidence in her and want her gone before the EU elections.
What is extraordinary about these attacks isn’t just how regular they have become but how none of Mrs May’s MPs spring to her defence.
There is the odd murmur and a brief clearing of throats stage left. Otherwise, stony silence.
There then followed a point of order from Sir Mike Penning (Con – Hemel Hempstead), who urged Parliament to mark the death of his fellow Grenadier Guardsman, Captain Robert Nairac, who was kidnapped by the IRA in 1977 but whose body was never found.
Penning, who’s built sturdier than a Land Rover, fondly recalled how his Captain had broken his nose in the boxing ring. ‘The first person to do so,’ he smiled proudly.
His views were echoed by Colonel Bob Stewart (Con – Beckenham) who remarked how Captain Nairac was apparently tortured for hours with a wooden post yet said nothing to his eventual killers ‘except to ask for God’s grace’.
Both interjections caused my lower lip to wobble. What a shame those IRA fanboys Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell hadn’t hung around to hear them.