MP Matt Western borrowed a trick from the late Caroline Aherne when he stood up in parliament to put a question to deputy prime minister Dominic Rabb today.
The comedienne’s alter-ego Mrs Merton’s most famous quip saw her ask Debbie McGee, the wife of the late Paul Daniels, what it was that first attracted her to the “millionaire magician”.
And the Warwick and Leamington MP asked Mr Rabb what the appeal of billionaire Russian oligarchs had been to prime minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Western said: “I’m sure the deputy prime minster will agree with me that when it comes to judging a person, it’s often done by the company they keep.
“When it comes to tennis, the prime minister enjoys the company of, and backhanders, of Lubhov Chernukhin. When it came to celebrating the election victory the prime minister prioritised the party hosted by the former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev. He has a great many others such as Victor Fedotov and Alex Temerko as friends.
“Can he therefore tell us what first attracted the PM to the billionaire Russian oligarchs?”
Mr Rabb responded that he was not quite sure where Mr Western had been going at the beginning of his question.
He said: “Of course the PM is not just a very social individual (to much derisive laughter from the Labour benches) – he wants this country to be open, outward looking to the world.
“But we were the government and he was the PM and I was the foreign secretary that introduced the Sergei Magnitsky sanctions that put human rights, that put sanctions, asset freeze and visa bans not just on Russians where we have evidence of wrongdoing, but also the murders of Khashoggi, also the persecutors of the Myanmar minority and many others.
“It was this government, not the Labour Party.”