Bit of a rum PMQs. The evolving sexual scandals cast a pall over proceedings. Up first, Dennis Skinner, who revealed the truth about HS2. It’s a wicked plot to treat northerners as ‘second class citizens’. He said that tunnels are to account for 30 per cent of the southern route but only 2 per cent of the northern bits. Selectively-educated Mr Skinner knows perfectly well that this is about economics. A Home Counties property costs more than its northern counterpart so burrowing under a house is cheaper than sending an express train through the master-bedroom. But perhaps he’s got a point. Couldn’t HS2 be entirely subterranean? Effectively this would mean extending the London Underground from Euston to Edinburgh. Not a bad idea. Travellers would relish the convenience of boarding a northbound tube train at Tottenham Court Road and emerging in Scotland, two days later, having spent an unforgettable time in the company of tenacious beggars, songbird hen-parties and snoring drunks.
Mr Corbyn took up the class-war theme. His subject was private jets. The Labour leader has spotted a vast flock of these aircraft on the Isle of Man. Just shy of a thousand in number. And this jet-infestation is an affront to his egalitarian principles. But to a true man of the people a thousand jets isn’t nearly enough. These winged emblems of liberty congregate on the Isle of Man because no VAT is charged on their purchase. If the same exemption applied on the mainland, we could all have one. But Mr Corbyn had a larger target. Tax-dodgery. He said that ‘the super-rich’ (a new species in his taxonomy of evil) are plotting to snaffle vast sums from the public purse. Somewhere between 34 and 119 billion quid, he alleged. By an amazing coincidence, these figures represent the annual budgets of two departments: schools (34 bn) and health (119 bn). The super-rich appear to be waging a secret war on medicine and knowledge. Their sole aim, the Labour leader implied, is to keep all citizens in ignorance and then kill them. A sane observer would note that Mr Corbyn’s outlook is rather more full of conspiratorial malevolence than the world he actually inhabits and which keeps him in such comfort and security.
Mrs May declined to take lessons from Labour on tax evasion. The Tories, she claimed, had virtually skinned the super-rich alive by grabbing ‘£160 billion in compliance revenues since 2010.’
What’s more, she said, Labour MPs had thwarted a government measure to curb tax evasion earlier this year, ‘before the election’. But wait. Is she sure ? Before the election the Tories didn’t need Labour support. They had a majority.
The SNP’s Chris Law made an embarrassing speech about Dundee whose voters he misrepresents. Its residents are ‘creative and innovative’, he condescended. Really? They’re so ‘innovative’ that their new museum, V&A Dundee, is being designed by Kengo Kuma who occupies a remote suburb of the city known as ‘Tokyo’.
Mr Law smirked as he flourished a quotation from the Wall Street Journal which has rated Dundee ‘the coolest city in Scotland.’ Big deal. Are his electors so lacking in self-approval that they await the verdict of a foreign newspaper before finding any value in their community and its accomplishments? It’s worth adding that this assessment of what is ‘cool’ (or ‘detached and debonair’, one might say) came from a man who looks like Frank Zappa dressed as Basil Brush.