Is Corbo working for the Tories? The Labour leader was such a pushover today that Cameron turned what should have been a televised monstering into a party political broadcast on behalf of left-wing Conservatism. Corbyn raised tax-avoidance, the minimum wage, and short-term contracts — three of Cameron’s strongest issues.
The PM boasted that prosecutions of minimum wage defaulters have leaped fifteen-fold since 2010. On tax evasion, he trilled, ‘I made it the centrepiece of my G8’. And on short-term contracts he reminded the droopy-shouldered Mr Corbyn that exclusivity clauses had been outlawed under the Coalition. Is Corbyn seriously trying to ambush the PM with arguments that were settled a parliament-and-a-half ago? And he shows no sign of honing his prose into sharp, stinging queries. He prefers to twaddle away in long rambling sub-clauses like a waffling loyalist engaged in a parliamentary filibuster. When he loses the next election he deserves to be given a grace-and-favour shag-pad at Hatfield House, courtesy of Lord Salisbury, to honour his tireless efforts in the Tory cause.
We saw a parliamentary liar being exposed today. Cameron was both the fibber and the whistle-blower. He was blithely pursuing Operation Fear (or Operation Panic as it’s fast becoming) and he tried to retract his claim that Brexit would lead to the mobilisation of forces across Europe. ‘The words “world war three” never passed my lips,’ he said, then realised he’d perjured himself in ten syllables. ‘Of course, they have now.’
World war three wasn’t scary enough for cuddly Labour backbencher, Helen Goodman, who claimed that ‘manufacturing would be mostly eliminated’ in the event of Brexit. Her source, Patrick Minford, is a student of creative numerology who styles himself a ‘macro’ economist (meaning that his blunders exceed the average for his profession.) Goodman reminded us, with apparent approval, that Glaxo and Hitachi have taken their employees hostage and are planning to sack them if Britain votes for secession. US banking giant JP Morgan has specifically offered to put four thousand of its staff on the dole. It’s amazing that these City whizzes can’t see that a promise to fire fat-cats might easily appear on a Brexit pledge-card.
Cameron’s has his own ‘loyal opposition’ within the Tory ranks and they took turns attacking him. Richard Drax made a lofty, personal plea. ‘Stop denigrating a great country’. Karl McCartney suggested that penniless Brussels would soon try to cadge extra sickness benefit from Britain because this country has been unwise enough to attempt to prosper within the EU.
Liam Fox raised the legal status of the referendum. It would be a ‘democratic outrage’, he said, if parliament attempted to distort the verdict of the people. David Cameron began to quiver with sincerity. Always a worrying sign.
He agreed, he insisted twice, with the Fox Doctrine. He said parliament must ‘treat the decision as an instruction to deliver.’ All smoothness and smiles. But that’s the thing. Until he outlined this principle it seemed self-evident. Now it’s on the record it seems as collapsible as a deckchair. Like that ‘world war three’ business. First he said it. Then he said he never said it. Finally he said he never said it — while saying it.