As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to Spreadsheet Phil’s Greyest Ever Budget (tm) yesterday in the Commons, something or someone disrupted proceedings to such an extent that there had to be a pause so that order could be restored. And then Jezza let rip at the Tory benches in some style. What might have irked him was not clear at first, and there were some who would rather it have stayed that way.
Those people, to no surprise at all, included the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who claimed “Corbyn Goes Shouty Crackers” (mental health smear: check!) and told readers “Jezza looking a little stressed as he struggled to come up with a response to the Budget”. Mandy Rice Davies Situation there.
What The Great Guido probably knows by now, but isn’t going to let on, is that the cause of that response was a typically sly and vicious smear engineered by the Tory whips. While Corbyn was speaking, Andrew Griffiths, who represents Burton and is a Government whip, was crouching on the gangway steps, hidden from view by the Speaker’s chair by those on the front bench. His position there was clearly not an accident.
Andrew Griffiths MP
When Jezza got to his comments on care homes, Griffiths, knowing the Speaker would not be able to see him - thus avoiding the fate of Dennis Skinner when he very clearly and deliberately called David Cameron “Dodgy Dave” and got chucked out of the chamber - made his move. According to one senior Labour source, Griffiths said “‘you should be in care,’ while another said the remark was ‘put you in a care home’”.
So Corbyn’s response - “Over £6 billion will have been cut from social care budgets by next March … I hope the honourable member begins to understand what it’s like to wait for social care, stuck in a hospital bed, while other people are having to give up their work to care for them! The uncaring, uncouth attitude of certain members of parliament needs to be called out” - was entirely understandable. And there was more.
Caught bang to rights
The Mirror noted that “After the Mirror published this story, Tory whip Andrew Griffiths admitted he heckled the Labour leader over his age” before observing that Griffiths thought it was all terribly unfair: “But he said quotes attributed to him by Labour were ‘wrong, misleading and inaccurate’”. It was jolly rotten because he got caught.
Griffiths’ problem is that not only did Jezza’s colleague Richard Burgon describe exactly what he was up to, but then someone called Matthew Long took to Facebook to show very clearly how the Tory whip had positioned himself so as to keep out of sight of the Speaker. It’s as if he knew that, had he been caught, he’d have been ejected from the chamber, and as a result would probably have lost his job as a Government whip.
Now all can see the nature of the Tory smear operation: the jeering, sneering, abusive and belittling behaviour is clearly not subject to any restraint, such is the desperation to put Corbyn off his stride. Except this time they got caught. Andrew Griffiths is a nailed-on, 24-carat, copper-bottomed shit of the lowest order, and therefore not big enough to resign.
The dirtier they play, the easier they are to catch out. No surprise there, then.