“Is an effective tax rate of three per cent right or wrong?,” asked Jeremy Corbyn. It sounds about right to me. However, there will understandably be backchat from those of us who pay rather more than this, when Google are allowed to get away with paying such a modest amount of tax. This should have been Jeremy Corbyn’s week.
Corbyn asked a question on behalf of Jeff – who would like to join a scheme like Google’s. But Dave was in “pumped up” mode. He attacked the last Labour Government. “If like me he’s genuinely angry about what happened to Google under Labour, I can I tell him a few people he could call. Maybe he should start by calling Tony Blair – at JP Morgan. He could call Gordon Brown – apparently you can get him at a Californian bond dealer called Pimco. He could call Alistair Darling – I thinks he’s at Morgan Stanley, although it’s hard to keep up. Those are the people to blame for Google not paying their taxes.”
How Corbyn must have longed to say: “Tell me about it! Those New Labour bastards…” But perhaps he felt Party unity was already a little frayed…
Cameron then got a bit too pumped up and denounced Corbyn for “telling a bunch of migrants in Calais they could all come to Britain.” Had Corbyn got his wits about him he could have challenged that tone as rather unsympathetic. Instead Corbyn droned: “No answers on Google, no answers on Jeff…”
Often we hear the complaint that Prime Minister’s Questions is too rough and tough. On the contrary, much of the half hour is taken up with virtue signalling. Backbench MPs come up the blandest and worthiest of sentiments masquerading as “questions” so they can send a press release to their local paper pointing out how committed they are. This insufferable prissiness should be prohibited.
So today we had condemnations of the holocaust. But then, did the Prime Minister agree that mental health was important? He did. Was he against cancer and did he welcome awareness raising Cancer Talk Week? He was and did. Was it important for children in Bradford to go to the dentist to avoid tooth decay? It was. Angus Robertson, the SNP leader asked if the PM could agree that discrimination against women was wrong. He could. Nicky Morgan – who is Minister for Women and Equalities as well as Education – was so bored she resorted to chatting to the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Nicky had a rather good bouncy new hair do – her leadership ambitions are evidently undimmed.
Tory MP Charlotte Leslie asked about young people “falling into the jaws of dangerously screwed predatory extremists” – a reference to Islamists rather than Corbynistas. SNP MP Margaret Ferrier looked snug as a bug with her woollen coat: she asked a rambling question about public finances before eventually being shut up by Speaker Bercow. Cameron noted that had the referendum result been different, Scotland would be facing independence in “just six weeks time” with a “94% reduction of oil revenues”.
Perhaps Ian Paisley Jnr might stir things up. “Deja vu,” he began. Sadly not. While his old man would boom, this lad is a bit of a mouse. Would the Prime Minister visit Rutland Island, a remote island that is part of Paisley’s Antrim North constituency. “Never, never, never,” Cameron should have replied. Instead he said: “I’m the first British Prime Minister for 30 years to have visited the Shetland Islands.” So that’s all right then.
Labour MP Caroline Flint asked about Google again. She wondered if companies should have to publish their tax calculations. She did a better job than Corbyn – but then so could almost anyone. The attack on Corbyn has broadened from him being an extremist to being weak. Usually the charge would seem muddled but attacking the Leader of the Opposition as a weak extremist manages to ring true. How long can he survive? I’d better Google that.