Britain’s political bearpit, prime minister’s questions, turned sixty this week.
The first episode of the UK’s second longest running soap opera, after Coronation Street, saw then Tory PM Harold Macmillan and Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell clash over an all too familiar topic – our economic relationship with Europe.
What would they have made of today? Well, while the fundamental principles have remained the same, there are some key differences.
For starters, the pair would have assumed George Orwell was frightfully right with his dystopian novel, 1984.
Half a dozen television screens now adorn the walls of the Commons chamber, allowing MPs in this Covid age to “virtually attend”.
Today’s PMQs was a first however, as the prime minister – who has been self isolating at country pad Chequers – dialled in.
Big Boris is Watching You
As has come to be expected by anyone who has had the (dis)pleasure of using video conferencing software over the last 16 months, the Q&A had several technical hiccups.
In one of the more bizarre moments, Johnson – rather like Bowie’s Major Tom cast adrift – was staring down the barrel of the camera repeatedly asking Speaker Lindsay Hoyle if he could be heard.
The session, which is the last before the summer recess, was memorable for other reasons however.
Johnson was repeatedly told that his decision to lift Covid restrictions in England would cause a “summer of chaos”, he also faced fresh accusations over his handling of the pandemic following last night’s revelatory interview with former chief aid Dominic Cummings.
Come September, Johnson may well look back at today’s session wishing he had heeded the calls to take a more cautious approach to Covid rules.