Rwanda parliamentary ping pong is closer to game of never-ending Monopoly

The latest vote on the Rwanda Bill in the House of Commons
The latest vote on the Rwanda Bill in the House of Commons - House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA

They call bouncing a bill between Commons and Lords “ping pong”, but ping pong is a fast game played by athletes. The amendment of the Rwanda Bill was more like digging out the Monopoly board at Christmas, only to find, six hours later, that the wretched thing is not only hard to win but surprisingly difficult to lose. Someone has to fold, to cry: “Bugger this, I’m off to bed!”

The legislative contest began mid-morning with a Sunak press conference. Always something of a supply teacher, amiable and enthusiastic, he announced that his patience had finally run out because the class hadn’t done the work. While Labour fiddles with amendments, he has booked flights, prepared courts, hired lawyers and, a curious turn of phrase used during the Q&A, “trained 500 escorts”. One hopes he gave that job to the right sort of MP. Otherwise, rather than 500 home office workers, the refugees will be shepherded through Gatwick by 500 girls picked up from the Old Kent Road.

The Commons heard the latest amendments; the Tories called them vexatious; Stephen Kinnock, for Labour, found them compelling. Bambi, as he’s known to his colleagues, was minded by Lisa Nandy, who practically willed him to get the words right and, when he sat down, rewarded him with a lollipop from her handbag. Alas, hardly anyone saw his triumph. The Chamber was so empty that Sir Edward Leigh was able to transform his bench into a hammock, stretch out and dangle an orange sock over the side.

This is the magic of our democracy. Vital bills go almost undebated, and then – as if by magic – MPs appear at the doors to vote on them; some in suits, others in jeans and jumpers. Penny Mordaunt always looks as though she’s stepped off the set of an advert for Pantene Pro-V. Never mind an Iron Dome; the good lady could knock 300 Iranian drones out the sky with her hair spray.

Amendments defeated: “Your turn to roll the dice, darling.”

The objections, wrapped in blue ribbon, were carried slowly by a clerk to the Lords – as if a bomb – and placed into the hands of the peers. There, Lord Anderson of Ipswich denounced the Bill as “post-truth”, for how can one declare a country like Rwanda safe in perpetuity? The Government was behaving, said another, like a “mad travel agency”.

Then there is the troubling fate of those 8.2 million Afghans who worked as translators during our invasion (Afghanistan might have been run by illiterate fanatics before we arrived, but it’s amazing how many of them were fluent in English). The peers considered their hand stubbornly, like the fellow who knows he’s beat but still owns Park Lane – so he’s reluctant to give in yet.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Britain continues to fill up with so-called “illegals” (a horrid phrase). Sunak revealed that morning that the Vietnamese are now turning up on our shores in larger numbers. The Vietnamese?! Those folks are unbeatable. Stop the boats and they’ll just build tunnels.