When Harold MacMillan took the first PMQs, he described it as “an experiment”.
Today, almost exactly 60 years on, he might have preferred it to be a bit more Johnny Ball, and a bit less Mr Hyde with a hangover.
But experiments there were many, with Boris Johnson celebrating the diamond anniversary in quarantine, answering questions over video link from his country retreat.
Chequers, set in 1,000 acres of English countryside, boasts ten bedrooms, a tennis court and a heated swimming pool, but apparently lacks a functioning microphone.
The PM’s voice struggled to overcome the rowdiness of another experiment. Many of the Tory MP contingent, drunk with glee after ‘Freedom Day’, took the opportunity to cast aside their masks, and bunch up on the Commons benches most likely to be seen by the TV cameras.
"My captors are treating me well. Please comply with Dominic's demands"
(Image: PRU/AFP via Getty Images)
About half kept their masks on. And in the notoriously under-ventilated Commons chamber on one of the hottest days of the year, at the end of term, when some people might not have dry cleaned their suits for a while, who could blame them?
Dubbed “the Chequers One” by Keir Starmer, himself experimenting with being a bit punchier, the PM was left shouting desperately into his laptop: “Can you hear me? Do you want me to give that answer again?”
The chaos extended today’s proceedings so much that those watching might have heard Sir Lindsay announce “PMQs has been going on for 60 years”, and thought “What, this one? Is that all?”
Johnson’s exile was a result of his own experiment to see whether he could get away with avoiding self-isolation rules.
The Prime Minister, apparently a Catholic these days, should perhaps have known better than to trust a Pilate to help him avoid crucifixion*.
The experiment was inevitably unsuccessful, and led to the fastest pilot U-turn since that time Theresa May sacked Priti Patel.
Of course, another of Dr Johnson’s great experiments was to invite someone he knew to be essentially a Bond villain into Number 10.
Dominic Cummings made the astonishing admission last night on national television that he and a “network” of a “few dozen” people had conspired to take over the country, and that for a while, they were successful.
No, Mr Johnson. I expect you to be Prime Minister
(Image: VIA REUTERS)
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But Starmer seized upon another of Galaxy Brain’s claims for his virtual joust with Johnson – that the PM was, at a critical point in the pandemic, in favour of rethinking the government’s response because many of the people dying were over 80.
The PM stopped short of an apology, but said things had changed “since we were thinking in those ways”.
Indeed, in the latest version of government guidance, young people – among whom Covid is still somewhat rampant – are being told they’ll eventually need to carry proof of vaccination to get into a nightclub.
Times have probably changed a bit since I secured under-age entry to dingy Sheffield indie clubs, with a fake ID which for some reason bore the name 'David Macleash.'
(I would often enlist a friend to refer to me as “Macca” in earshot of the door staff to add an air of authenticity.)
The point is, some young people won't see this as a barrier, but as a challenge. Or indeed, for those competent with Photoshop, a business opportunity.
Starmer’s chief problem with the plan is that it won’t come in for at least six weeks – during which time nightclubs will be something of a free for all.
Nightclubs, of course, are notoriously well ventilated, not at all crowded and aren’t, to my recollection, places where people engage in close, physical contact.
Perhaps drawn from his own teenage clubbing experiences, Johnson today unveiled a new S-Club 7 influenced slogan – “Keep Life Moving”.
Keir Starmer suggested an alternative three-word slogan could be “get a grip”.
Though after today’s technical issues, he might have to go with for “Is this on?”
* And yes, in case you were wondering, my big experiment for the day is whether jokes that work perfectly well out loud are still funny when written down. Early results are not promising.