Jeremy Corbyn rarely talks about Brexit at Prime Minister’s Questions, and it is interesting that he chose today’s session, which will get little attention as a result of the Budget, to probe Theresa May on the matter.
The Labour leader did have a good stint, quoting a number of European negotiators, Tory backbenchers and Cabinet Ministers who have made comments to the effect that the British government doesn’t know what it is doing on Brexit. He also accused the Tories of blocking measures protecting workers’ rights and acknowledging that animals are sentient beings.
But Theresa May was on good form, too, continuing to appear as though she is regaining her confidence somewhat. She was able to cheer the troops behind her by making a joke about the new female Black Rod and the Labour Party waiting 650 years for its own first female leader, and later teased Corbyn for recycling a question on freedom of movement which had previously been asked by the leader of the Lib Dems.
The exchanges didn’t change anything, but then neither leader expected them to. What was interesting about the session was the way in which two Tory MPs – Bob Blackman and Kelly Tolhurst – asked questions about housing which summed up some of the government’s problems when it comes to the session that everyone is paying attention to. We have long known that May wants to build more homes but is rather wary of the various methods by which this can be achieved. Blackman’s question was on housing associations’ surpluses and the need for them to build more. May had clearly had advance notice of this, as she produced a very detailed answer on government policy on social housing and the need for more homes. But a couple of questions later, Kelly Tolhurst complained about the construction of new homes without proper infrastructure. Now that Hammond is speaking, we will see how well the government has been able to resolve this tension.