Today Jeremy Corbyn used PMQs to go on the attack over Theresa May’s plan to bring back grammar schools — a topic many had hoped he would lead on last week. Better late than never, the Labour leader put in his best performance to date as he used all six questions to take the Prime Minister to task over her proposals.
Given that Corbyn separated from his ex-wife over her desire to send their son to a grammar, he was in his element as he argued that selection ‘can only let children down’. When May replied that she wanted a society with ‘opportunity for all’, Corbyn snapped back that ‘equality of opportunity is not segregating children at age eleven’. What’s more, he managed to keep his performance from descending into a rambling lecture by including a few one-liners as well as quoting an opponent of grammar schools — only to then reveal the words to be those of David Cameron.
In contrast May struggled to defend her plans from criticism, as her colleagues sat uncomfortably beside her. She swerved a question on feeder schools and failed to name one ‘expert’ who backed her proposals when pressed. Rather than talk of grammar schools specifically, she tried to speak in broad terms of her party’s desire for fairness and ‘levelling up’. This helped to keep her MPs — currently divided on the issue — from looking too dour-faced. However, even her tribute to Corbyn’s first year as leader failed to bring much cheer to the Tory benches:
‘He wants coal mines without mining them, submarines without sailing them and he wants to be Labour leader without leading them. One thing we know, who ever is Labour leader after their election — it will be the country that loses.’
By the end of the session, even Corbyn’s less supportive MPs were describing it as a win for their beleaguered leader. With fractures already showing in Conservative party over May’s education plans, she will need to improve her argument to have a hope of getting it through Parliament.