Cameron hi-jacked today’s PMQs with a show of calculated brutality masked as high dudgeon. Feeble, whey-haired Corbyn obeyed the commands of his unwanted passenger and meekly drove him wherever he wished to go. Cameron’s destination was ‘extremist Labour’.
Corbyn strives constantly to outdo himself in uselessness and today’s rambling, ill-structured assault was typical. Early on Cameron inverted the terms of the session and invited Corbyn to clarify his attitude to Hamas and Hezbollah. Years ago Corbyn had referred to Hamas as ‘friends’ at a seminar in parliament .
Corbyn declined to re-express himself. Cameron repeated the demand and reminded us that the Hamas handbook calls for Jews to be killed in Israel and elsewhere.
Corbyn needed to nail this threat straight off. He failed. So Cameron devoted four questions to Labour bigotry which will propel it up the news agenda. Corbyn’s eventual retraction was burbled out in artless and repetitive phrases — ‘this was not an approval of those organisations, I absolutely do not approve of those organisations’ — which will confirm the impression that the words were extracted unwillingly from a knee-jerk bigot. Corbyn is better than that but he’s a lazy image-builder. He lets others paint him as it suits them, not him.
The wonder is not that Corbyn had difficulty trimming his position but that parliament itself is open to foreign activists whose party constitution commits them to genocide. The niceties scarcely matter. Would a chillier greeting from toast-master Corbyn have made the event morally acceptable? ‘In you come, you surly fanatics, and start whingeing about east Jerusalem while I pass round the Hobnobs. And later we’ll decide who’s got the best beard.’
Cameron’s real target wasn’t Corbyn but Sadiq Khan whose probable victory in the London mayoral election tomorrow will make him Labour’s most powerful serving politician. He’s a negligible puffball who speaks like a ventriloquist with a blocked nose. And his pitch to Londoners never varies. ‘I’m from Tooting and my dad drove a bus. I’m also from Tooting and my dad drove a bus. Thirdly I’m from … oh wait.’
He once dismissed as ‘flowery language’ a suggestion that Jews should be drowned at sea. Asked about this, Corbyn called it ‘systematic smearing’ (of Khan, not Jews). Corbyn’s needy references to the mayor-apparent as ‘my friend’ (said three times) had the air of a jilted spouse.
When he shifted away from the prejudice crisis he attacked Cameron on inequality. But the PM’s positions here are unlikely to embarrass him, let alone make headlines. Corbyn quoted a charitable survey suggesting that 4 million Britons ‘can’t afford what they need to eat, stay warm and drive.’ I blanched at that ‘drive’. I don’t drive. I’m now on the scrap-heap. It’s official. I hope next week Corbyn attacks the government for failing to provide me and my fellow tramps with yachts.
He accused Cameron of allowing homelessnesss in England to rise by a third. But in Wales, he said, ‘homelessness is down by 67 per cent’. Which is a strange way to describe a mass exodus of those made destitute by Welsh Assembly policies.
The barmiest Corbyn attack-line was this. ‘Participation in Level 2 adult education courses has fallen by a fifth in a year.’ Only the worst kind of wonk would memorise such dross. And only a politician who completely misunderstands his trade would use it in a national debate. Politics isn’t about arranging prole-calls in public buildings. It’s about vision, guts imagination and sometimes even poetry. One wonders if Corbyn’s soul is dead. Or maybe it was never there.