HENRY DEEDES sees MPs on a sticky wicket

The minister’s Head Boy hair looked like it’d been styled in a wind tunnel: HENRY DEEDES sees MPs on a sticky wicket as they pad up for cricket race row

As the fallout from the Owen Paterson business continues, a vinegary atmosphere pervades the Commons.

MPs are ratty. Chippy even. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle looks fed up to the hind molars with all of them. Thank goodness they’re now on recess for the rest of the week.

Even a debate yesterday on Azeem Rafiq, the former cricketer who suffered racist abuse while playing for Yorkshire, had a faintly sour feel to it.

Some Opposition MPs carped and heckled whenever Conservative MPs spoke. Others competed as to who could be more outraged about the affair. Unedifying. With sports minister Nigel Huddleston in Geneva on a footballing jolly, digital minister Chris Philp was despatched in his stead following an urgent question from Navendu Mishra (Lab, Stockport).

With sports minister Nigel Huddleston in Geneva on a footballing jolly, digital minister Chris Philp was despatched in his stead following an urgent question from Navendu Mishra (Lab, Stockport)

Philp’s selection for the task may well have been a last minute job. When I spotted him entering the Commons earlier, he was still frantically checking his statement. Mr Philp is a reasonably well-oiled operator who looks younger than his 45 years.

He has Head Boy manners and hair that looks as though it’s been styled in a wind tunnel. Cooling aftershave balm is probably his thing.

In cricket terms, he is a tidy batsman. There are no fancy strokes in his repertoire, but he seems entirely at home with the stodgy drivel junior ministers are required to speak at the despatch box.

MPs are ratty. Chippy even. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle looks fed up to the hind molars with all of them. Thank goodness they’re now on recess for the rest of the week

He talked of the need for ‘transparency’ and ‘regulatory process’. It probably helps that Philp used to work for McKinsey, the fancy-drawers management consultants.

They pump out meaningless gobbledegook like this as if it were toothpaste. Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens spotted a chance to score political points. She outlined Yorkshire’s woeful handling of the Rafiq saga and pondered whether they’d been taking soundings from the Prime Minister.

She referenced Boris’s ill-advised newspaper column remarks in the past, which she said ‘helped to enforce a culture where racism is seen as banter.’

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens spotted a chance to score political points. She outlined Yorkshire’s woeful handling of the Rafiq saga and pondered whether they’d been taking soundings from the Prime Minister (file photo)

Philp suggested the House might be better served by MPs ‘standing together’ to tackle racism.

Julian Knight, chairman of the culture select committee, admitted to feeling a fool. I wondered at first if he was referring to the over-sized novelty poppy adorning his buttonhole. It was as big as a tea saucer. In fact, it was because he assumed cricket (‘my game’) to be more ‘colour-blind’ than most.

Events at Yorkshire CC had shown it to be otherwise. Mr Knight, incidentally, has invited Mr Rafiq to appear in front of his committee next Tuesday, along with members of the Yorkshire hierarchy. Could be interesting. Virendra Sharma (Lab, Ealing Southall) spoke of the importance of sport in bringing people of different colours and creeds together. He invited Philp to come and spend the day with one of the cricket clubs in his constituency.

Such occasions usually require MPs to strap on pads and face a few overs from the team’s pace merchant. Which may explain why Philp suggested Sharma invite his colleague Huddleston instead. That’ll teach him for leaving Philp in the lurch.

Jamie Stone (Lib Dem, Caithness), whose rich tea voice and tweedy manner evoke images of long shadows over county grounds, reminded racists of an old Scottish expression: ‘We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns.’ [We’re all the same.]

Julian Knight, chairman of the culture select committee, admitted to feeling a fool. I wondered at first if he was referring to the over-sized novelty poppy adorning his buttonhole

He urged the Government to seek pointers from their counterparts north of the border who for years have had to deal with sectarianism in Scottish sport. Philp agreed.

He should have also suggested Huddleston head to an Old Firm derby and soak up some of the boisterous atmosphere.

Later, Health Secretary Sajid Javid came to issue a statement on making Covid vaccines compulsory for NHS workers.

Two rows behind him perched his predecessor Matt Hancock, who urged NHS staff to get their jabs ‘sooner rather than later.’ Laugh all you like at old octopus hands, he’s often in the chamber offering his two ha’porths. Many deposed ministers slope off in a huff for months.

Gavin Williamson certainly seems to have done so. Though this may be no bad thing…

Later, Health Secretary Sajid Javid came to issue a statement on making Covid vaccines compulsory for NHS workers (file photo)

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