HAM, cheese and milk came up, as it were, at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday.
They were chewing the fat about what Keir Starmer called “the latest free school meals scandal”. This was a reference to food parcels that wouldn’t feed a hamster on a New Year diet. Surprisingly, these had been provided by private enterprise.
The Labour leader said that, despite supposedly being worth £30, these had been costed at £5. He asked the Prime Minister: “Would he be happy with his kids living on that?”
Mr Johnson said the images on social media were “disgraceful”, “appalling”, “an insult”, adding: “And I am grateful to [footballer]Marcus Rashford, by the way, who highlighted the issue and who is doing quite an effective job by comparison to the Right Honourable Gentleman in holding the Government to account on these issues.”
Wisely, Starmer did not respond: “Yes, and I’d be a much better striker for Man United.” Instead he said: “It shouldn’t have taken social media to shame the Prime Minister into action.” Good old social media. Great sense of responsibility.
Mr Starmer then proceeded to regurgitate a list, which he said was official Government guidance on what should feed one child for five days: “One loaf of bread, two baked potatoes, block of cheese, baked beans, three individual yoghurts. Sound familiar? That’s the images, Prime Minister, you just called disgraceful.”
The only extras, he added, were “a tin of sweetcorn, a packet of ham and a bottle of milk”.
Mr Johnson is famously fond of his vittles, so it’s tempting to think he got a Homer Simpson-style image in his head and licked his lips as he thought: “Packet of ham. Mmmm.”
There was more food on the menu (or not, as it turned out) when SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told of a Lochaber shellfish exporter in his constituency who had lost £40,000 of produce when his lorry was delayed by “Brexit red tape”.
Faced with the choice of addressing this matter or childishly referring again to the “Scottish Nationalist Party”, Mr Johnson chose the latter, prompting Mr Blackford to rejoin: “I am amazed that the Prime Minister continues to traduce the name of the Scottish National Party.” It would have been good if Mr Blackford had checked his notes before saying the name, or even better if he’d joined in the childish spirit of things and referred to the “English Conservatory Party”.
And don’t think the childishness stopped there, readers. Mr Johnson told the House: “As far as I understand it (spoiler alert: he doesn’t), they’re already spending money in Scotland on what they call Indyref 2 when they should be getting on with fighting the pandemic.”
And he ended on this bombshell note: “I’m told by the way, Mr Speaker, that he (Mr Blackford) can’t bring himself to say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Perhaps he could just say that he likes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.”
Presumably, the implication here was that Oxford was English and, therefore, evil to the Scottish nationalists, a view that is bizarrely out of touch. If you’ve ever met any Scottish nationalists, they almost faint if you mention the E-word and, if forced to address the elephant in the isles, will only say that they love England more than their own mother.
Mr Johnson’s mind, meanwhile, had moved on, as indeed had lunchtime. He wondered if he could get his hands on one of those food parcels. Ham, a block of cheese, baked potatoes, loaf of bread, beans, three yoghurts, sweetcorn, all washed down with a bottle of milk. What a splendid lunch that would make.