Lord Reed and his colleagues at the Supreme Court may not have set out to cheer everyone up, or almost everyone, across the road at the Palace of Westminster, but that was one conspicuous result of their rejection of the Government’s Rwanda policy.
In any institution it is so much more enjoyable when the rules have been broken and someone is in trouble. Life suddenly becomes vivid and amusing. Think back to your schooldays, and you may recall, if you are a hundred years old, that when word went round that Smith Minor had been caught drinking on Field Day and was going to be beaten, everyone except for Smith Minor thought this was hilarious, and even he had to pretend to see the joke.
In the press gallery the Law Lords’ judgment was greeted with hilarity. “Bring back Boris,” a colleague said. “Not yet,” I replied, and that too was taken for a witticism.
At Prime Ministers’ Questions, there was none of the yawning which marred the occasion last week. Almost everyone was in high spirits and even Rishi Sunak seemed fine.
Could it be that he is relieved to have got rid of Suella Braverman? Last week he had to defend her.
This week he sacked her, and the world has seen, in from her resignation letter, just how furious she is with him, and how rejected she feels: “Our deal was no mere promise over dinner.”
Sunak can hope for a more constructive relationship with her successor, James Cleverly, as they seek, from the rubble of the Rwanda policy, to construct something that actually works.
“The principle is lawful,” the Prime Minister began, with reference to the Supreme Court judgment, and went on to draw a contrast between the Government, which has promised to stop the boats and has had some modest success in reducing numbers, and the Opposition, which would do “a cosy deal” with the European Union to “accept 100,000 illegal migrants”.
Sir Keir Starmer had some oddly flippant lines in his script. This surely was a day for gravity: for saying that the Government has failed to demonstrate even elementary competence and must go.
The Leader of the Opposition instead accused the Prime Minister of rescuing David Cameron from “seven-year exile in a shepherd’s hut” by making him Foreign Secretary, and went on to say that Sunak “even found time to fanboy Elon Musk”.
The House was boisterous. The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, called MPs to order with the words, “Are we serious?”
To which the answer was no, but the House was interested to see who would emerge victorious from these exchanges, at the end of which one could not say Starmer had managed to mar Sunak’s day.
When Sir William Cash referred to the new Foreign Secretary, “who of course we wish well”, there was a great burst of laughter, for Cash, a lifelong defender of national sovereignty, cannot be expected to approve of a Remainer like Cameron, albeit the Remainer called the referendum in which national sovereignty was restored.
The new Home Secretary came on next to deliver a statement on illegal migration. He conveyed no sense of having been thrown in the deep end: was trenchant, measured, calm, jabbed his pen at the Despatch Box but betrayed no other sign of nerves.
Britain’s lead in setting up an offshore centre to process asylum applications is, he said, being followed by Austria, Germany, Denmark and Italy.
If we understand Lord Reed correctly, he and his colleagues would regard such work with greater favour if it were done by British officials.
Cleverly spoke so slowly that his statement went on almost too long. To manage almost to be dull on such an exciting day was an achievement.
Yvette Cooper, for the Opposition, appeared to accept that the Government’s position has changed: she said “I don’t believe the new Home Secretary ever believed in the Rwanda plan”, and added that he may even have called it “batshit”.
Cleverly detected “glee” on the Opposition benches, and claimed this meant “they don’t want immigration control to work”. But Labour’s glee was really just the natural human propensity to find disaster more fun than quiet efficiency.