David Cameron’s focus today is on his statement to the Commons about his EU deal, and so was much of PMQs. John Mann opened the session by asking dramatically ‘Is that it?’ and criticising the Prime Minister’s deal, forcing him to defend it immediately. Angus Robertson used his questions to complain about the expected date of the referendum and its proximity to the Scottish, Welsh, local government and London Mayoral elections, though Cameron told him he was trying to find things to complain about. The only blessing for Cameron was that Jeremy Corbyn decided to attack him on cancer treatment and benefits, and only Christopher Chope asked a hostile question about Europe.
This was hardly a great blessing, though, as Corbyn’s questions on cancer treatment did leave the Prime Minister a little tongue-tied at times over cuts to therapeutic radiographers and diagnostic waiting times. To defend himself, he moved onto attacking Labour in Wales, which is a useful line of attack but always shows that Cameron is in need of a lifeline.
Corbyn moved onto asking about cuts to employment support allowance for cancer patients and others who want to work but are currently too ill to do so. Cameron refused to give any ground on this policy, which has been defeated by the Lords and will soon return to the Commons for ‘ping-pong’, which is consideration of amendments in the Upper Chamber. He insisted that only new claimants will be affected by this. But there are Tory MPs who are worried about this cut who are pressing ministers on it. That said, a small group of worried Tory MPs is nothing compared to the large group of disappointed MPs that the Prime Minister is about to encounter on Europe.
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