The Guardian

As Johnson tells more porkies, his Tory MPs cheer him on, but a part of them dies a little more

- John Crace

There were still one or two gaps to be seen, but the Tory benches were a great deal fuller for prime minister’s questions than they had been last week. Not that all the Conservati­ve MPs looked too thrilled to have been strongarme­d by the whips into making a Commons appearance in a veneer of enthusiasm for an accidentpr­one leader. Though they shouted and brayed in all the right places, there was something mechanical about the whole exercise.

Nor was all entirely well on the front bench. There’s not much love lost between Rishi Pig and Boris Pig, with both sides spending most of their time briefing against each other, and the chancellor had made sure there were the maskless Liz Truss and Priti Patel between him and the prime minister.

The best laid plans etc. Moments after Johnson had entered the chamber, the chief whip, Mark Spencer, had shoved Liz aside and gestured for Sunak to take her place. Sunak duly obliged, though with little enthusiasm. The prospect of having to try to look loyal for the TV cameras for 30 minutes didn’t much appeal.

Keir Starmer began with the government’s amendment to its social care bill. Those who were less well off, with houses worth about £100K, would lose almost all of their assets if they needed to move into a care home, while the better off would lose a far smaller proportion. This was a broken promise. The Labour leader said this as if it was a matter of fact, rather than a question.

Which it was, though this didn’t stop Boris Pig from lying through his teeth. No one was ever going to be made to sell their homes, he insisted. Starmer had got the wrong end of the stick. Everyone could definitely stay in their homes provided they were still able to stay in their homes. What could possibly be fairer than that?

And if they couldn’t stay in their own homes, the government was doing them a favour by getting them to flog them. It was a kindness to the little people to have the decision to sell made for them. They couldn’t take their old homes with them to the care home. In any case, it was all the fault of the Attlee government. Or something. At times like this, Johnson doesn’t need to lose his place for 20 seconds to look lazy and stupid.

The Tory MPs cheered dutifully, though part of them must have died a little more inside.

Starmer kept banging away with good soundbites. The new social care bill was a workingcla­ss dementia tax. The Tories were pickpocket­ing the poorest in society, first by getting them to pay more in tax and national insurance and then by getting them to flog their homes to pay for their care. All Boris could manage by way of reply was to bounce up and down on his feet, wave his arms wildly and talk nonsense.

“Is everything OK, prime minister?” Starmer had concluded. It wasn’t, of course. Though this was beside the point. The Labour leader still seems to think that if you confront Boris Pig with reality for long enough you will break through his denial and get him to accept the truth. It doesn’t work like that. Johnson and reality have never been on speaking terms.

It was all Attlee’s fault. Or something. At times like this Boris Johnson doesn’t need to lose his place for 20 seconds to look lazy and stupid

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