QUENTIN LETTS: China spy crisis? Deputy PM 'Olive' Dowden was as damp as dim sum dumplings

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Reds not just under the bed but also in Westminster’s corridors, canteens and, for all we know, in the Commons hair salon? MPs did not react calmly.

‘We are in the front line of this!’ cried Tim Loughton (Con, East Worthing & Shoreham), hopping up and down while he affixed twigs of south-coast privet hedge to the webbing of his tin helmet.

Backbenchers percolated like hookah pipes about a threat to ‘freedom of expression and the beliefs that undermine our values’. There was talk of the need for ‘constant vigilance’ and for rooting out ‘sabotage and espionage’. 

‘Deter, detect, disrupt,’ said the deputy prime minister, Oliver ‘Olive’ Dowden, making a Commons statement about the great (alleged) China spy crisis. What a time of it the MPs had. Beijing was maybe spying on them? Yesssss. At last someone seemed to think they mattered.

Damp as dim sum dumplings, Dowding. Chinese officials must think all that hand-flapping and Larry Grayson eye-rolling is a cunning front. One doesn’t like to tell them he really is that wet. 

Mr Dowden boasted that he had banned Chinese TikTok from government mobiles and had reduced our vulnerability to sinister surveillance ruses. Yet he would not describe China as a ‘threat’. Instead it was ‘a systemic challenge’. My school reports used to employ that phrase, too.

¿Deter, detect, disrupt,¿ said the deputy prime minister, Oliver ¿Olive¿ Dowden, making a Commons statement about the great (alleged) China spy crisis

‘Deter, detect, disrupt,’ said the deputy prime minister, Oliver ‘Olive’ Dowden, making a Commons statement about the great (alleged) China spy crisis

Mr Dowden would not describe China as a ¿threat¿. Instead it was ¿a systemic challenge¿. Pictured: China's President Xi Jinping

Mr Dowden would not describe China as a ‘threat’. Instead it was ‘a systemic challenge’. Pictured: China’s President Xi Jinping

¿We are in the front line of this!¿ cried Tim Loughton (pictured), hopping up and down while he affixed twigs of south-coast privet hedge to the webbing of his tin helmet

‘We are in the front line of this!’ cried Tim Loughton (pictured), hopping up and down while he affixed twigs of south-coast privet hedge to the webbing of his tin helmet

A row of ministers on the front bench nodded gravely. Tom Tugendhat, security minister, was among them, Buddha in a bate. Yet Mr Tugendhat still occasionally flashed his eyebrows at acquaintances. He is an incorrigible networker. 

The claim here was that a foreign superpower had gone to elaborate lengths to sidle up to him. But the traffic normally steams in the other direction. It can be a job to escape schmoozer Tom. 

Same with Alicia Kearns, head of the foreign affairs select committee and another of those MPs allegedly targeted by President Xi’s operatives. Mistress Kearns is the foghorn of Rutland. If Agent Pinyin tried eavesdropping on her, he must now have punctured eardrums. Her bawling baritone would fry the wiring of any electronic bug.

Talking of which, a small blue tube had been left on the bench behind the ministers. It resembled an asthma inhaler but you can never be too sure. Such was the frenzy, I’m surprised it wasn’t taken away by anti-terrorism police and blown up as a suspected ‘device’.

Speaker Hoyle gave a warning about the ‘ongoing sensitive investigation’. Liz Truss (Con, SW Norfolk), rare as a bearcat, turned up to say China was dangerous. 

More dangerous than her? Labour’s Barry Gardiner, who pocketed half a million pounds from a controversial Chinese woman, began a question mainly about himself. 

The Speaker told him to cork it. Mr Gardiner was heckled by Tories including Loughton. Minutes later Gardiner popped up in a doorway at the back of the Tory benches and gave Loughton a piece of his mind. Cross as chopsticks.

Same with Alicia Kearns, (pictured) head of the foreign affairs select committee and another of those MPs allegedly targeted by President Xi¿s operatives. Mistress Kearns is the foghorn of Rutland. If Agent Pinyin tried eavesdropping on her, he must now have punctured eardrums. Her bawling baritone would fry the wiring of any electronic bug

Same with Alicia Kearns, (pictured) head of the foreign affairs select committee and another of those MPs allegedly targeted by President Xi’s operatives. Mistress Kearns is the foghorn of Rutland. If Agent Pinyin tried eavesdropping on her, he must now have punctured eardrums. Her bawling baritone would fry the wiring of any electronic bug

More dangerous than her? Labour¿s Barry Gardiner, (pictured) who pocketed half a million pounds from a controversial Chinese woman, began a question mainly about himself. The Speaker told him to cork it

More dangerous than her? Labour’s Barry Gardiner, (pictured) who pocketed half a million pounds from a controversial Chinese woman, began a question mainly about himself. The Speaker told him to cork it

Bob Seely (Con, Isle of Wight), always cheery, predicted war in the Pacific in four years. Marie Rimmer (Lab, St Helens S) squawked that ‘China is infiltrating our academia’, which may be more than she ever managed. ‘We’re playing cricket while they’re got the machetes out,’ added the sage of St Helens. 

Christine Jardine (Lib Dem, Edinburgh W) claimed one of her outdoor speeches had been filmed by a Chinese drone. Some poor soul in a Shanghai warehouse presumably later had to listen to it. They never show you such things in the James Bond films.

If Beijing wants to waste money snooping on MPs, why stop them? Not being terribly hot on democracy, communists think Parliament is where the decisions are taken. Ha! As for sanctioning Worthing’s Loughton, is it the plot of a mistaken-identity farce? 

The worst that can be said of Loughton is that he walks with a waddle and is a mite too fond of jelly babies. But if you said ‘backhander’ to him he would think it was a reference to his grass tennis.




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