‘WITH all due respect,” a woman pipes up in an imperious tone, “this is a very important demonstration.” She’s not happy that someone taking photographs is obscuring Theresa May’s view of her sign.

Theresa May isn’t actually here – she’s still in the Houses of Parliament, drying her eyes after her last hurrah at PMQs – but that’s beside the point. It’s vitally important that when she does emerge to make her way up the road to Downing Street, she clocks a red placard bearing the message: “In a democracy, a majority is a majority”. Meanwhile, someone else is unhappy about the cardboard sign being brandished by a man in a clown suit, inflatable crown and Boris Johnson mask. “You shouldn’t use expletives,” he says, shaking his head at the inclusion of “F**k business”. It says something negative about a man when he uses expletives, you see. When advised that this is a reported quote from the new Prime Minister, his tune doesn’t change. “Ah, but he said it with such alacrity!”

“THE KING IS DEAD!” is the bellowed response. “LONG LIVE THE CLOWN!”

If Wednesday afternoon’s scenes in Parliament Square sound like a thoroughly embarrassing spectacle – a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party but with cheaper hats, and with impotent gestures instead of hot beverages – I regret to inform you that it was no less edifying than what had just happened inside.

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It was my first visit to Westminster and I’d been preparing for rules, regulations, pomp and ceremony amid sweltering heat. What I wasn’t expecting was outright farce.

Scottish Questions was already under way when I took my seat in a side gallery, my delayed arrival caused by the chaotic spectacle of the Speaker’s Procession, a scrum of ticket checks and a queue in a narrow stairwell for a cloakroom where we had to leave our bags, hats and electronic devices. But hey, who cares about Scottish Questions?

Certainly not most of the MPs, who simply talked amongst themselves while David Mundell fielded questions for what everyone knew would be the last time.

If the muttering and braying is distracting on TV broadcasts, it’s even worse in the Commons, where the elected representatives behaved like unruly school pupils taking advantage of a trainee teacher. At one point the Speaker bellowed “ERRRR!”, but to whom or for what purpose was unclear.

A female MP came in and sat down on the stairs in the central aisle, despite numerous empty spaces on the benches, and awkwardly tugged down her dress to avoid flashing her pants. Are there no health and safety regulations in this place? Maybe it’s all some kind of performance-art protest against EU red tape?

As Mundell was being grilled about the threat Boris Johnson poses to the Union, the dangers to Scotland of no deal and his own record of utter hypocrisy, Anna Soubry was up and down like a yo-yo, itching for the chance to ask him if he was ready to sign the pledge committing to EU withdrawal by October 31. But she was made to wait – and wait and wait. Labour’s Martin Whitfield wanted to know if there was any talk of more powers for Scotland, asking: “If the Secretary of State is in his place later, what will he do to keep Scotland in its place” – sorry, what? – “in the UK?” Well, that question could have been worded a little better, couldn’t it?

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Thankfully by this point the woman on the stairs had managed to squeeze herself into the benches, but then Jo Swinson arrived, requiring a gallant Alistair Carmichael to shift his bum onto the vacant spot of carpet. I wondered if he was reminiscing about the times when he got to stand beside the despatch box rather than sit on the floor.

How times change. Eventually stand-up Soubry got her moment of glory, and with a roar of contemptuous laughter Mundell was finished.

Apparently, tradition dictates that a Prime Minister’s final session should be a gentle volley of compliments rather than an adversarial grand slam. Jeremy Corbyn started off by paying tribute to Theresa May’s sense of public duty before firing off a list of all her failings. “Child poverty – UP! In-work poverty – UP! Violent crime – UP!” he began, and his comrades spotted a chance to join in with the chorus. Unfortunately the effect was that of a stag do who weren’t yet quite drunk enough yet. Not to worry though – at least Corbyn’s sidekick Dawn Butler wasn’t holding back, giving May a sly wave and a poisonous “Bye – you won’t be missed!” So much for the love-in.

With that nasty business over with, it was time to hear about Theresa May’s wonderful work as a champion of women’s rights. At this point I wondered if I might be having some kind of heatstroke-induced hallucination. Did she just wink at Jo Swinson? Is this whole thing a mirage? Is that really Harriet Harman saying that because of May’s record on tackling human trafficking and domestic violence, “her legacy is secure”?

Finally, it’s over. The Tories are on their feet, May is beating a retreat, and Michael Gove is clapping his hands in that weird way only Michael Gove can.

The MPs have had their fun, laughing, jeering and cheering while anyone who has been paying attention to British politics looks on in panic. With all due respect, is this really a time for jokes?