So Jeremy Corbyn reached his century. Today he asked his hundredth PMQ question. It feels like so many more, doesn’t it? The awkward shift from local radio phone-in host (“Claire from Nuneaton has a question…”) to floundering supply teacher (“It’s not funny!”) to what Nye Bevan would have called a “desiccated calculating machine” with a muddled spewing out of obscure data.
Corbyn never really has a good week at PMQs. He has some weeks that a worse than others. Perhaps due to the novelty wearing off this was one the worse ones.
Even before he got to his feet he had been challenged by David Cameron over the decision of the Labour Party to welcome in Gerry Downing – a Trot wacko who says: “We defend the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq”, “Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question”. Good scoops those…
Corbyn dived for cover. Rather than answer the challenge, Corbyn took refuge with a tribute to Sir George Martin, the fifth Beatle. Help I need somebody. He proceed to plead for “investing in young people, investing in our future.” I was reminded on The Simpsons episode where Lisa becomes US President to find the country bust after President Trump “made the great mistake” of “investing in our nation’s children”.
It was a good PMQs for Arthur Laffer. Corbyn had asked about Corporation Tax somewhere amidst the fog (“Could I bring him back to the question from Callum…”). Wasn’t is shocking that money for children was being cut to allow a reduction in Corporation Tax? “Let’s look at what has happened to Corporation Tax receipts since we cut Corporation Tax,” said Cameron. “It is up 20%.” Is that a message that the top rate will be cut from 45% in the budget? Martin Day, the fiery SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, also showed heartening Lafferite tendencies which he applied to Scotch: “Last year’s cut of 2% in duty increased revenue to the The Treasury by £102 million” he announced demanding a further 2% cut in tax in the budget. Cheers!
Richard Burgon, the Labour MP and hopeless Shadow City Minister, asked: “If the British people vote to leave the European Union will the Prime Minister resign, yes or no?” This trick of demanding a “yes or no” answer only works when you can be sure the person under interrogation couldn’t possibly provide one. Of course Cameron replied: “No!” Rachel Reeves looked up from her iPhone for a moment to wrinkle her nose in contempt at Burgon’s effort.
A Tory MP called Ranil Jayawardena asked about helicopters. He came across as a younger, posher, heartier version of Ed Miliband. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” truce about clashing over the EU referendum generally held although Sir Bill cash cam up with some procedural point. Corbyn (a closet outer) avoids this great question of our time.
Roberta Blackman-Woods asked about International Women’s Day. Rather than a bland reply Cameron stuck the boot in: “Let me say this to the Labour Party. One thing you can help with. No more segregated political meetings. Let us end the process of people with bigoted religious views treating women as second class citizens. I think you
should all take the pledge!”
Even on feminism, the Labour Party are in such a diminished state as to be on the moral defensive. Despite his answer to Burgon it is quite possible than Cameron may be gone in a few months but he certainly sounded in command today. Corbyn may survive for years, but is floundering hopelessly. Leaving us with the cringe-making prospect of the next century of despatch box queries…