PANTO season came early yesterday at top comedy venue, the House of Commons. Even so, it was odd to see the Prime Minister’s costume include three ears in his top pocket.

Perhaps I should explain that it was Back British Farming Day, and Boris Johnson was sporting ears of wheat to show his support. Either that or he’d got his cereals mixed up when trying to signify that here was a Prime Minister who liked his oats.

The pantomime allusion will become clearer in due course. In the meantime, I’ll let readers choose which was Beauty and which the Beast, Boris or his parliamentary opponent, Sir Keir Starmer.

Actually, the first character that sprang to mind was Buttons, which was how the Labour leader might have characterised the pay of single mothers on minimum wage. He asked the PM to guess how many extra hours a week such a person need work to make up money lost in the Universal Credit cut.

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Boris’s nose grew exponentially as, taking the part of Pinocchio, he blustered about Labour wanting to cut Universal Credit altogether, disingenuously implying that they’d give people nothing.

Taking the Humpty Dumpty, Sir Keir complained that, uncharacteristically (joke), Boris hadn’t answered the question. Making it “even easier”, he asked the PM if he thought it higher or lower than the two hours estimated by his Work and Pensions Secretary.

Boris claimed that “for the first time in decades wages are rising” and, adopting the role of Peter Pandemic, added: “I think it is a good thing, for instance, that Costa Coffee is paying 5 per cent more than they were before the pandemic.”

Pouring salt into Boris’s flat white, the Labour leader supplied the answer himself: nine hours a week. “They’ve got kids”, he added, doubtless prompting Boris to think: ‘Well, aren’t there any chimneys they could be sweeping?’

When Sir Keir criticised the forthcoming National Insurance tax rise for health and social care, Boris pointed out that one in 10 people in the country was on an NHS waiting list. I don’t think that was anything to boast about.

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Panto time got properly under way when Sir Keir shouted, “Taxes on working people!”, and his Labour audience responded: “Up!” So it continued. National Insurance: “Up!” Council tax: “Up!” Food prices: “Up!”

Up with which Boris wasn’t putting. “I can see the panto season has come early,” he averred, to pantomime cheers from his own backbenchers. Mr Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, noted: “If it is, it’s certainly behind you!”

Enter Cinderella in a bulging waistcoat, and one shoe short of a pair, as Ian Blackford, for it was he, called for a “winter action plan to fight the Tory poverty pandemic”. The SNP’s Westminster leader added: “If any Scottish Tories are in possession of a backbone, now would be a good time to find it.”

I don’t know about a backbone, though most folk would agree that Scottish Tories have a nerve. As does Boris, as he suggested that, rather than complaining about workers’ pay, “the Scottish Nationalist Party” man would be “better off banging on, as he normally does, about a referendum”. As ever, the only person in the chamber banging on about a referendum, in the middle of a pandemic, was Boris.

Elsewhere, the Tories, now apparently the party of the NHS and high wages, also appear to have mutated into the party of animal welfare and immigration, with Christian Wakeford (member for Bury South) calling for “a fur-free Britain” and Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) calling for Covid-recovery visas to attract foreign lorry drivers and crop pickers.

It was almost a relief to find that Tories still have a thing for uniforms, with Bob Blackman (Harrow East) describing himself proudly as “a Queen’s Scout” as he spoke up for Squirrels, the adventuresome movement’s new designation for four-year-olds, who will presumably be taught how to hoard nuts, which is coincidentally the main function of Parliament.

In other contributions yesterday, Jack Dromey (Lab) bewailed the plight of an automotive parts plant in his Birmingham, Erdington constituency, saying it would be a betrayal “if this great historic factory were to become history”. Sounds a bit late for that, mate.

Jamie Stone (Lib Dem) spoke of “delighted crofters” welcoming the prospect of a space launch facility in his Sutherland constituency. Yes, they’ll be dancing in the fields of Melness tonight. Mr Stone added: “I extend a warm invitation to the Prime Minister to come to the first launch. He’ll be given a delicious Highland tea” – is this an allusion to whisky, like ‘Dundee salad’ is to chips? – “including some home-made scones.”

Ever partial to baked goodies, Boris said he’d be delighted to accept, adding ignobly: “What we need is a suitable payload to send into space, and I think the honourable gentleman opposite would do very well.”

And with that slapstick rocket up Mr Stone’s butt, we bring the curtain down on this week’s production of Puss in Suits.

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