QUENTIN LETTS: Will snaky-hips Macron put an oily arm round Starmer and try to tempt the stolid sausage into promising to cancel Brexit?

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Great excitement in Labour circles: Sir Keir Starmer has been invited to Paris to meet Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace. The Peripherique will grind to a halt with excitement and Canal Plus’s news schedules will stay limber to report on this genius of British socialism, Capitaine Sagesse Retrospective.

Let’s hope it isn’t too much of a let-down. Apparently the French are keen to hear what Sir Keir’s policies are. Ha! Join the queue.

One shudders to think what will happen. Snaky-hips Macron will sashay up to Le Capitaine, put an oily arm round him and try to tempt the stolid sausage into promising to cancel Brexit. Sir Keir is taking shadow foreign secretary David Lammy with him for intellectual ballast.

The touring party will also reportedly include Sir Keir’s new chief of staff, the sometime barmaid Sue Gray. That makes more sense. Having until recently been a Whitehall mandarin, port-and-lemon Sue knows what the Civil Service intends to do when it seizes full power.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before his Parisian adventure, Sir Keir had to face Rishi Sunak at the last PMQs for a month (the Commons will next Tuesday adjourn for the party conference season).

Apparently the French are keen to hear what Sir Keir's policies are. Ha! Join the queue

Apparently the French are keen to hear what Sir Keir’s policies are. Ha! Join the queue

Snaky-hips Macron will sashay up to Le Capitaine, put an oily arm round him and try to tempt the stolid sausage into promising to cancel Brexit

Snaky-hips Macron will sashay up to Le Capitaine, put an oily arm round him and try to tempt the stolid sausage into promising to cancel Brexit

Sir Keir’s best attack was to label Sunak ‘Inaction Man’. Quite a good line but he didn’t deliver it terribly well. The joke needed to be teed up and teased out a little more, perhaps with references to Inaction Man Rishi’s rigid grins and plastic hairdo.

Humour does not come easily to the Labour leader. He’s no Frank Carson. Nor does he always come up with fresh goods. He complained that Mr Sunak was over-optimistic about life in Britain and that this was ‘so at odds with the lived experience’ of voters. Trouble was, he said almost exactly the same thing last week. Novelty can be a tyrant and having to think up new attack soundbites for PMQs every week must be a bind, but Sir Keir’s sally sounded stale.

At least Sir Keir fared better than the Lib Dem leader, Sir Ed Davey, at whose mere name the house gave a loud, instinctive groan. There is often one MP who provokes this reaction. Until recently it was Ian Blackford, former leader of the Scots Nats. Now it is poor Sir Edward. His question was a perfectly decent one about cancer waiting lists. MPs were not criticising that. They were groaning simply because Sir Ed bottles a proprietary bland of priggish, pedestrian sanctimoniousness. The Commons can be a merciless place.

Sir Keir's best attack was to label Sunak 'Inaction Man'. Quite a good line but he didn't deliver it terribly well. The joke needed to be teed up and teased out a little more, perhaps with references to Inaction Man Rishi's rigid grins and plastic hairdo

Sir Keir’s best attack was to label Sunak ‘Inaction Man’. Quite a good line but he didn’t deliver it terribly well. The joke needed to be teed up and teased out a little more, perhaps with references to Inaction Man Rishi’s rigid grins and plastic hairdo

Parliament twists people out of shape. Derek Twigg (Lab, Halton), anxious to make some party point about the NHS, demanded to know if the PM felt ‘ashamed that people are dying needlessly on his watch’. Mr Twigg, a former defence minister, is normally temperate but plainly felt under pressure to up the ante and become unpleasant. It drew a little spit of fire from Mr Sunak, who pointed out that strikes by doctors may have done rather more to worsen death rates. The Tory benches warmed to that flash of indignation from the PM, not least because it felt unrehearsed and angry.

Neither of which would be said for an urgent question about sewer overflows. It was put by Labour’s new environment spokesman, Steve Reed. Not one of life’s charmers. Mr Reed relished talking about ‘the tide of raw sewage flowing down our rivers, into our lakes and washing up one our beaches’. Ministers were ‘up to their necks in the sewage crisis’. He doubted that the PM would tolerate raw sewage in his private swimming pool, so ‘why is he happy to treat the British countryside as an open sewer?’

Having paddled in muck and added an envious dig at Rishi’s pool, Mr Reed sat back looking pleased with himself. But the sally did not quite work. Rough as it is, the Commons is a place, oddly enough, where transparent nasties do not always float to the top.







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