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The eulogy is a difficult form, demanding a profound appreciation of the most characteristic qualities of its subject, and the ability to convey intense feelings of grief and love, bringing perhaps to the mourners some sense of consolation at hearing a life so fondly portrayed and admired.
Boris Johnson has this week delivered two excellent eulogies, on Monday to Sir David Amess and today immediately after Prime Minister’s Questions to James Brokenshire.
Sir Keir Starmer sought to bring the same “collegiate spirit” to PMQs itself. One can see why he did this, but one has to hope it does not happen very often.
For it led to a competition between him and the Prime Minister to see which of them could sound the most pious.
“After the week we’ve just had I really don’t want to descend to that kind of knockabout,” Sir Keir remarked at one point, after Johnson had made some not very knockabout point.
The Prime Minister reverted to his most correct and solemn manner. He was being asked about the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, and how it can be used to prevent the publication of extremist content.
A good question, which one hopes will provoke impassioned argument as the legislation passes through the House.
For the threat to freedom in today’s session was posed by the exchange of platitudes with which no one could disagree, since to do so would be to expose oneself as a bad person.
The Leader of the Opposition had forgotten that it is his duty to oppose, and conceived instead that it was his duty to foster a high moral tone.
Beneath the surface some sort of argument, or struggle for supremacy, was still going on, but it was one which no ordinary mortal could be expected to follow, so dreary and sanctimonious were the terms in which it was couched.
Too much of this, and PMQs will no longer exist as a spectacle which any normal person wants to watch. We shall have succumbed to the tyranny of the sanctimonious.