HENRY DEEDES: The Corbynites were out in force. Any excuse to moan about the monarchy… Yawn-inducing Commons crashers rally to the Republic’s defence
They say the definition of a bore is someone who feels the need to tell you everything. In which case Graham Smith is one of life’s ocean-going, chateau-bottled wet blankets.
Mr Smith, in case you were lucky enough to have missed it, is the unsmiling chief executive of anti-monarchist group Republic who, rather than simply ignore Saturday’s coronation festivities like most people who aren’t enamoured with the royals, chose to toddle along to Trafalgar Square to try to spoil the fun.
That is the traditional tactic of the Class A bore, you see – to try to suck all joy from life. It’s how they operate. It’s what they do.
Unfortunately for Mr Smith, before he’d even had time to scream some doubtlessly wit-filled soundbite from his rusty megaphone, he and five of his Republic stooges had found themselves being arrested, a move police have now admitted might have been a little de trop.
And, boy, haven’t we’ve heard about it. Thanks to Smith, precious few have been spared the details of his ordeal, be it on television, radio or his over-active Twitter account. The way he’s carried on these past 48 hours, one would think here was some sort of latter-day Rosa Parks.
Graham Smith (pictured) is the unsmiling chief executive of anti-monarchist group Republic
Parliament is chock-a-block with yawn-inducing crashers so naturally plenty of like-minded MPs rallied to Smith’s defence yesterday.
The issue was raised in the Commons via an Urgent Question from Joanna Cherry QC (SNP, Edinburgh SW) whose whole-hearted support for Smith barely requires comment.
Responding for the Government was Chris Philp, the tightly buttoned policing minister who always wears a slightly put-upon expression. Imagine a flustered air steward dealing with a passenger complaining about the lack of a vegetarian meal option and you’re pretty much there.
Philp explained the Coronation had been a ‘once in a lifetime event’, which the police were responsible for passing off safely.
They had received specific intelligence about plots ahead of the big day. Some idiots planned to throw paint over the procession. Others were apparently preparing to spook the horses involved with rape alarms. Hideous.
Given such threats, most sensible-minded voters probably understand the need for police to exercise caution.
Strange, then, that so many moderate Labour MPs chose to accuse the police and the Government of being heavy-handed.
Dame Diana Johnson (Lab, Hull N) attacked the Government’s new Public Order Act which had allowed the police to make their arrests.
Mr Smith attending an anti-monarchy protest prior back in March 2023
Not that Labour would repeal it, of course. Heavens, no – they could be the ones having to deal with the eco mob soon.
Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) worried the arrests had damaged trust between police and protesters in the future. Boo hoo, I hear you cry.
Twit of the day went to Kirsten Oswald (SNP, E Renfrewshire), who claimed the arrests made London resemble Moscow. Which might have been funny had it not been so insulting to the innocent saps currently languishing in Putin’s jails.
Needless to say, the Corbynite wing were out in force. Any excuse to moan about the monarchy. If they’d had their way William and Kate would be working the salt mines by now.
Clive Lewis (Lab, Norwich S) reckoned the Public Order Act had been rushed through the House without proper scrutiny. ‘Absolute nonsense,’ blurted Philp.
There had been ‘extensive ping-pong’ debating the Bill in the chamber ‘which I do not recall him turning up to,’ he said, nodding in Lewis’s direction. Well, well, well.
John McDonnell (Lab, Hayes) wearily rose to his feet to express concern over a journalist who was arrested. Old man McDonnell sticking up for journalists? That’s a first.
Corbyn himself was there. After launching into one of his doddery rants, he walked over to where his old friend McDonnell sat, whereupon a lengthy consultation between these two spent volcanoes took place concerning their mobile telephones.
Cue much quizzical arching of eyebrows and scratching of foreheads. Searching for the On button, perhaps. Either that or they were working out how to log on to Russia Today.
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