Daily Mail

Unlike Blair, Rishi doesn’t beat his pigeon chest over military action. Tory MPs may wish he did


At Parliament we had the shipping forecast, read by Rishi Sunak. the general synopsis at 0600 hours: Red Sea, rough, occasional missiles, reprisals expected later. In the Commons, mind you, things were as calm as a bird bath. Barely a squeak of protest was heard. the conscienti­ous objectors, true to their nature, had mostly surrendere­d.

Mr Sunak announced that the RAF had again been in action and had hit Houthi bases north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa. ‘All intended targets were destroyed,’ he said in his caring voice. It may be to Mr Sunak’s credit that he beats his pigeon chest so little over military action. Previous PMs have basted themselves over this sort of thing.

Sir tony Blair used to do those exciting Downing Street telecasts when one of his eyeballs throbbed and you could practicall­y see Alastair Campbell goose-stepping in the background. David Cameron, now Foreign Secretary, was on television yesterday looking all pump-lipped and butch, his hair slicked right back. Mr Sunak is a more Zen propositio­n. tory MPs possibly wish he would milk the moment a little more.

Backbench Labour complaints about the military action were quieter than last week. Had they been told by Keir Starmer to keep quiet? Or had they now accepted that the West is entitled to look after its shipping interests?

Sir Keir expressed support for the air strikes and put peculiar emphasis on the first syllable of ‘typhoons’ when mentioning those warplanes. He made them sound like typhoo tea. Military equipment, along with the economy, may be a blind spot for the Labour leader.

Sir Keir is less interestin­g to watch than Stephen Flynn, who leads Westminste­r’s Scots Nats. Mr Flynn again performed without notes. this means that he speaks for less long, which is always a good thing, and that his contributi­on sounds more spontaneou­s. He noted that

the Houthis have been bombarded for the past eight years by Saudi Arabia and have not yet caved in, so why was our Government confident that these air strikes would have much effect? Mr Sunak swerved that question.

Other MPs struggled to say much that was novel. tobias ellwood (Con, Bournemout­h east) reminded us that he was once a junior foreign office minister. Mr Sunak: ‘I thank him for his previous efforts.’ Poor tobias. Crushing irrelevanc­e.

CAROLINE Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) reprised her distaste for the Israeli government. recycling an argument: it’s good Green practice. Alicia Kearns (Con, rutland & Melton) asked about militants and opportunis­m, on which latter subject she is a celebrated expert.

Ms Kearns is a glorious goose, honking away about foreign affairs (she’s chairman of the committee) as if she were Henrietta Kissinger. Sleeves rolled, forearms meaty as a barmaid’s. Her jaw drops low with all the Auswartige Angelegenh­eiten Sachversta­nd you would expect of a devotee of reader’s Digest. We sketch writers are fortunate to have her.

the day’s other excitement was Kemi Badenoch at the business committee, jabbering away about her Pacific trade bloc deal. the bloc is called the CPtPP and the acronym’s letters flew out of her like Bren gun bullets. Other MPs were less adept. A chap from rugby called it the CPtPt, then the CBtPP.

Mrs Badenoch was well on top of her department­al details, waving hands in the air and blinking at computer-speed behind her Coke-bottle spectacles. She was boldly sceptical about economic modelling and government interferen­ce – ‘I hate using the word subsidies’ – and the committee and its Labour chairman, Liam Byrne, seemed to warm to her thatcherit­e briskness. Mr Byrne is a less snippily partisan chairman than his predecesso­r, Darren Jones.

People talk of Mrs Badenoch as a future tory leader. Not impossible. She has a strong intellect and likes to demolish received wisdom. But the voice is a little muddy and her wavelength is at present more technocrat­ic than populist. She could do with laughing more and talking a lot less.

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