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QUENTIN LETTS: Yvette Cooper’s head wobbled furiously, her eyes a-bulge with vexation, flashing orange, blue and green at James Cleverly’s immigration announcement in the Commons


Eye-popper in the Commons: a Government actually did something the voters might actually like. A mad innovation! It’ll never catch on.

Less than a week after a Conservative peasants’ revolt on immigration levels, Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was going to chop numbers by hundreds of thousands. No more benefit-systems abuse by workers’ families. No more under-cutting of locals’ wages.

‘Enough is enough,’ said Mr Cleverly. He had plainly looked at the poll ratings. If they sink any lower, the submarine might implode.

But let us park the cynicism and express wonder that 10 Downing Street had for once taken cognisance of protests from the orlop deck, and had done so less than a week after a backbench mutiny. Such responsiveness to parliamentary pressure was unprecedented.

Tory MPs were in a daze. Think of Jamaican bobsleighers who had reached the bottom of a run without whizzing off the track and landing in the nearest pine tree. They cheered, smiled, practically did high fives. But one of them (Ipswich’s young Tom Hunt, who has practically chewed his knuckles in frustration over the harm done to his town by immigration) did say ‘shame it’s taken so long’. 

Less than a week after a Conservative peasants’ revolt on immigration levels, Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was going to chop numbers by hundreds of thousands, writes QUENTIN LETTS

Less than a week after a Conservative peasants’ revolt on immigration levels, Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was going to chop numbers by hundreds of thousands, writes QUENTIN LETTS

Labour backbenchers were appalled that anything was being done to accommodate the great unwashed British electorate. The idea that immigration might be too high was dismissed by Neil Coyle (Lab, Bermondsey & Old Southwark) as a fetish of ‘Tory headbangers’. Mr Coyle happens to be the thirsty charmer who landed himself in trouble by being unpleasant to a young British-Chinese journalist late one night. Brother Coyle knows all about headbanging.

Other Labour backbenchers moaned and keened and shouted ‘disgrace!’ and ‘shame!’ when Mr Cleverly, in his slightly camp, tight suit-jacket and iron-on beard, announced various new requirements that will make it harder for foreigners to work here.

Beth Winter (Lab, Cynon Valley) was her customary frosty self. She’s as joyless as a Valleys undertaker. Up they popped, one after another, to waggle boney forefingers of gloom: the likes of Rachael Maskell (Lab, York Central), Alex Cunningham (Lab, Stockton North) and Justin Madders (Lab, Ellesmere Port & Neston). The government was doing quite the wrong thing. This was a perfectly honourable view, no doubt, but it clashes with their frontbencher, Yvette Cooper, who claimed that she, too, wished to cut immigration. Sure thing.

Yvette is magnificent at these occasions. I watch her performances with such absorption that I never actually follow her words, such as they are. You don’t have to. Everything becomes subservient to the brilliant theatrics of her disgust, her disappointment, her head-wobbling indignation at everything the minister opposite her has said.

She shakes her head even more than Nicola Sturgeon used to, and at greater velocity. It’s a wonder she hasn’t suffered frightful whiplash. The head was bouncing around so much this time that if it had left its moorings it would have shot across the Commons table, landed on the floor and kept spinning, like one of those illuminated gyroscopes, with her eyes – a-bulge with vexation – flashing orange and blue and green as it hurtled about on its speeding axis.

Yvette Cooper (pictured, centre) is magnificent at these occasions. I watch her performances with such absorption that I never actually follow her words, such as they are.

Yvette Cooper (pictured, centre) is magnificent at these occasions. I watch her performances with such absorption that I never actually follow her words, such as they are.

Suella Braverman (of blessed memory) used to rise to the bait. Mr Cleverly handles Yvette better with a tone of amusement and, yesterday, a little wink after he talked about ‘this great government’. He knew that would elicit barks of disbelief from Labour, and it certainly did.

Tim Farron (Lib Dem, Westmorland & Lonsdale) asked if the Home Office had consulted Lake District hoteliers. Mr Cleverly said indeed it had. That rather popped Timbo’s balloon. Joanna Cherry (SNP, Edinburgh SW) tried emotional one-upmanship by talking about an elderly relation in a care home… Mr Cleverly trumped her effortlessly by saying his mum came to this country in the 1960s to work for the NHS.

And Alistair Carmichael (Lib Dem, Orkney & Shetland) was upset trawlermen would have to learn to speak English. Cod English in their case, surely?



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