The Pied Piper of Westminster
Our Westminster expert, Simon Hedges, talks about the allure of Sir Keir Starmer's majestic pipe.
When the Jubilee Line Extension was being built under Westminster, the constructors had to pump liquid concrete under the Houses of Parliament to prevent it from toppling over into the Thames. But this week, all the spurted liquid concrete in the world wouldn’t have stopped the foundations rocking as Christopher Woodford, Tory MP for Burnley South, crossed the floor of the House of Commons.
Normally, talk of such antics are reserved for the gossips of Westminster Village, but such are the heady times we are living in, it is said that Keir Starmer’s latest scalp was being discussed as far away as Leamington Spa.
There were rumblings in the Commons as soon as the Speaker’s Boy appeared and presented Sir Keir with King Edward’s Stool. This is what tradition dictates when a defection is afoot. Thanks to Tony Blair’s 1999 reforms, it is no longer the case that the Speaker’s Boy is solely the preserve of the loneliest child at Eton but is rotated with a celebrity. On this occasion it happened to be Angela Scanlon, host of BBC Two’s Your Home Made Perfect.
Sir Keir, dressed in the all green regalia of The Piper, sat crossed legged on the stool like a brilliant little gnome and gave five toots on the pipe. Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot! Mr Woodhouse was ushered into his warm embrace with cheers from his new friends on the opposition benches. Hip-Hip Huzzah! Three cheers for…Christopher?
Naturally, the hard-left were moaning, as usual. The day ended in a Y after all. Why they would actually care, nobody knows, since they have all been expelled from the Labour Party for trolling and abuse, such as going on and on about voting records.
The claim was that Woodlouse’s defection from the Conservative Party was nothing to be celebrated, because he was a bad man who had voted for nasty things. A childish claim of course, you don’t have to be a politics geek (like me!) to understand that voting in the House of Commons is a matter of who has done the most effective whipping operation and has nothing whatsoever to do with ideology or opinions. Besides, ideology means rather little when at least 90% of MPs all believe in the same things anyway, and thank goodness.
The tantalising question remains, who else can The Piper encourage over from the loosening grip of the Prime Minister’s sweaty paw?
Picture the scene, you are a Conservative MP. No, stay with me. While idly joyscrolling the #Peston hashtag you see a multi-tweet thread called something like “50 times Bumbling Boris has been a great big snozcumber!” It has already been retweeted by James O’Brien and you just know that Gary Lineker is authoring a dynamite quote tweet featuring a single cry-laugh emoji. The Labour Party doomsday clock has just ticked one minute closer to electability. And then you see him. Sir Keir Rodney Starmer, looking like a wise old psammead about to grant a wish. Your wish.
He’s giving you The Eyes, a hypnotic, forensic glare. You can’t resist. You want applause, you want to be patted on the back. Are you going to get those things with the morons up north in Backwards-On-Trent? Hell no, they don’t even know who you are!
You find yourself rising to your feet. You feel reborn. You weren’t living before now, you were fumbling about in a fugue state! Toot! Toot! The sound is intoxicating. Toot! Toot! Just one more…Toooooot! I’m coming Sir Keir!
Conservative colleagues are getting up all around you and the PM, massive headphones over his ears to drown out the toots, is losing his mind. “Noooo! Stay here, I demand it! Where are the Whips?! Where are the Whips?! Did they not tell you not to defect? Don’t you understand how whipping works you fucking idiots?” But it’s too late, the tooting has worked its magic. Boris is done. He reaches for his phone and retweets the thread calling him a snozcumber, and starts to cry.