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PMQs Sketch: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are back in control

6 September 2017

5:07 PM

6 September 2017

5:07 PM

Mrs May was back to her former self today. Cool, brusque, snappy and effective. Electoral disaster has served her well. Is it possible she planned this all along? Having brilliantly sacrificed her majority, she’s now indispensable to her weakened party. Her lack of defences defends her. Just one Commons defeat and Corbyn could walk into Number 10.

The Labour leader was transformed too. The vegan diet appears to have drawn a circle of spiritual detachment around him. He didn’t get narked today. He wasn’t petulant or hoity-toity. He didn’t rant or snarl. The wheedling note of the dentist’s drill never entered his voice. He seemed measured and in control. Smooth, even. His scripted interrogation had the single aim of establishing that Mrs May had ratted on her manifesto pledges.
He asked about executive pay but Mrs May changed the subject and praised her party for forcing companies to disclose directors’ salaries. He moved to NHS wages and Mrs May shifted the blame back to Labour. Interest on their debts, she said, is costing more than the entire NHS pay-roll.

They tussled briefly over energy prices. Corbyn called for a cap. Mrs May wrung her hands and wondered why-oh-why the Big Six didn’t offer better value for money. Neither mentioned the obvious answer: cut the green levies that transfer cash from poor families to rich land-owners with those lucrative twirly-wirly windmills in their fields.

Ian Blackford, for the SNP, chastised the government for failing to ‘cherish’ migrants. We were ‘chasing them away,’ he said. Even the legal ones. He was referring to deportation notices sent in error to EU nationals whose papers were in order. That explains a lot. It seems that illegal residents get a nice letter from Whitehall telling them to scram before the cops show up. No wonder they’re difficult to find.

Ruth Smeeth got worked up about peckish mums and dads in the Potteries. Those whose kids get free meals at school find it difficult to make lunch for them during the holidays. Trembling with outrage, Ms Smeeth reported that some parents had reduced their own intake in order provide their nippers with grub. This left her ‘disgusted’. She ordered the PM to ‘do her job and act’. If not she would face further explosions of Smeethian wrath. But how exactly must Mrs May ‘act’? Ms Smeeth seems to expect the PM to summon a fighter-jet whenever a British child feels a rumble in its tummy and fly to the rescue with an emergency sandwich.

Will Quince drew attention to the housing charity, Crisis, which has been in operation for 50 years. With lots of smirking and nodding, the PM thanked Mr Quince and expressed her wish that everyone at Crisis would enjoy the celebrations. Vagrancy in London is a serious problem and it could be eradicated at a stroke if the Palace of Westminster were opened up to the 2,500 rough-sleepers in the capital. But this sensible policy will have to wait, for today at least, because the PM is hosting a party for Crisis and its staff at Number 10 this evening. (No tramps, please). The housing shortage in London is deepening but the number of housing charities is on the rise. Google reveals dozens of them: Shelter, Centrepoint, St Mungos, Passage, Connection, Single Homeless Project, The House at St Barnabas, Manna, Depaul Charity, Emmaus UK, Thames Reach, Step by Step, Providence Row, Glass Door, the Salvation Army and more.

If each of these august bodies held a Downing Street bash every week, with rough-sleepers serving the champagne, the problem would vanish.

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