HENRY DEDES: Your rebels, PM are getting ready for their gunpowder

Just four days until recess. Already there is an uneasy feeling around Westminster. Given that most government regulations suggest all workers work at home, it is no surprise.

Our elected representatives should not travel to London Monday mornings, even though they can spend a day in their constituency watching Homes under the Hammer.

Only a few Scots Nats were present yesterday, according to me. One Lib Dem appeared. In Parliament Square, the anti-vax demonstration failed to draw much attention. Waitrose’s sourdough counter is a more rowdy scene.

Shortly after 4pm, Health Secretary Sajid Javid arrived to deliver a statement on the Government’s booster programme. Poor Saj got a real earful right before he was even able to get on his feet from Sir Lindsay Hoyle. The Speaker wasn’t happy about Boris’s Sunday night address to the nation about turbocharging the booster programme.

Once again, he complained, Parliament had become ‘a second runner-up to television news’. Don’t expect that he and Boris will be exchanging signed bottles of House of Commons whisky this Christmas. Javid stated that boosters will be required for Covid passes. He claimed that the Omicron strain was causing over 200,000 infections per day. The Saj also pronounces Omicron in a strange way. ‘Oh-mee-cron.’ Me no like.

Before he even got to his feet, poor Saj copped a proper earful from a groggy-sounding Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Before Saj could get up to his feet, Sir Lindsay Hoyle gave him a real earful.

Wes Streeting was also introduced as the Labour health spokesperson in this statement. He did it! Well, he’s eloquent and polite. He’s not without steel, either. Like many of his fellow front-bench coworkers, he’s at least presentable. He has clean shoes and perfectly oiled locks. He is sure to be loved by mothers.

Javid was joined by the usual Tory troublemakers Mark Harper (Con. Forest of Dean) & Sir Desmond Swayne, (Con. New Forest W). You can be sure that no one will vote with the Government today on Plan B’s restrictions. However, I noticed that Sir Desmond finally accepted wearing a facemask inside the House. Well, more of an oily rag that he ties around his face as though he’s about to hold up a train.

They didn’t seem to give Javid any trouble at all. Saving their gunpowder for today’s debate possibly. The most cutting intervention of the session came from Andrea Leadsom (Con, S Northamptonshire), who complained of the Government’s ‘intrusive and incoherent’ regulations.

That produced gasps from Labour’s benches. I’m not sure they thought that Mrs Leadsom had it in her. 

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Con-Chingford and Woodford Green), suggested that if they are serious about achieving the target of one million doses per day, the Government must eliminate the post-jab waiting requirement for 15 minutes. This was something doctors have complained about. It’s easy to see why. The surgery got clogged up while I was having my jab yesterday. It was chaos.

The usual moans, groans, and grumbles came from the opposition benches. Anum Qaisar (SNP, Airdrie and Shotts) wanted remote voting reintroduced so that she and her colleagues don’t have to trek down from Scotland. Not my department dear, The Saj replied, that’s up to Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg. That’s great. I can’t see Jacob making life easier for the SNP.

Joyless Rachael Masell (Lab York C) was truly horrified at the fact that socializing is still allowed. It’s like going to the pubs. Laughing. It’s having fun. Absurd.

The Speaker wasn’t happy about Boris’s Sunday night address (pictured) to the nation about turbocharging the booster programme

The Speaker wasn’t happy about Boris’s Sunday night address (pictured) to the nation about turbocharging the booster programme

Labour MPs made two completely reasonable suggestions. One came from Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda), who advised Javid to get tough on rip-off PCR test firms that were still being allowed to punt their wares on the Government’s website. Some still claim to charge £15 for a test when the real price is usually five times as much as that.

Ben Bradshaw, Lab, Exeter asked the second question. He wanted to know why travel restrictions are still needed now that Omicron is rampant in the UK.

Saj admitted that it was fair. Saj sounded almost like he planned to lobby Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in order to have them removed. There were a few gurgles as he praised the government benches.

By the sounds of it, they’re going to be far rowdier later today when debating the Plan B rules. That will definitely be something to look out for.