Jezza was on spectacularly dreary form at PMQs. He droned through a communique about International Women’s Day which made the celebration sound inexpressively dispiriting. The movement is all about ‘how far we’ve come and how far we have to go,’ he moaned. He sounded like an Arctic explorer giving a live commentary as he slices off his frost-bitten toes, one by one, with a pen-knife.
May hadn’t mentioned Women’s Day. And Corbyn, by bringing it up, had laid himself open to attack. It was swift and deadly. And beautiful in its way.
‘Thank-you for telling me it’s International Women’s Day tomorrow,’ said May in a voice that was full of blades. She turned towards him, both lasers on full beam. ‘I think it’s what’s called mansplaining.’
Corbyn did a bit more mansplaining about Saudi Arabia whose Crown Prince is in London. Saudi Arabia is something of a novelty for Corbyn: an extremist movement he doesn’t support. And if he had his way, the Crown Prince would spend his entire visit stuck in an LSE classroom being given lectures on human rights. And there’d be a test at the end. Corbyn is particularly opposed to arms sales to the Saudis, especially if the weapons are deployed in their attacks against the Yemeni. Then he made an extraordinary claim:
‘British military advisers are directing the war’
Seriously? MoD freelancers are orchestrating air-strikes on Yemen during their lunch-hour? A bit more Mindfulness is called for.
May had no difficultly dismissing Corbyn’s worries over arms sales. His chief womansplainer, Emily Thornberry, said this morning that flogging material to the Saudis was fine provided the law wasn’t broken.
Corbyn cherry-picked his next topic: homelessness. He said this social curse had shrunk under Labour but ‘doubled under the Tories.’
May sought to neutralise these troubling statistics. ‘Statutory homelessness,’ she said carefully, ‘is at half its peak since 2003.’
Whatever that means. She says it’s halved. He says it’s doubled. Who knows the truth? What’s clear is that last November our bountiful chancellor offered to lavish millions of pounds on Britain’s tramps and vagrants. Unfortunately, the money didn’t reach them. Not a penny of it. The entire haul was intercepted by ‘homelessness experts’, ‘begging-bowl tsars’ and ‘hypothermia gurus’, who, as parasites go, are in a class of their own. These are people who earn money by telling people who aren’t homeless why people who are homeless are homeless. Really useful. Corbyn reminded May that a rough-sleeping ‘task-force’ had been mentioned back in November too.
‘It hasn’t met!’
Labour MPs jeered triumphantly.
‘The task-force has, in fact, met,’ said May.
Tory MPs jeered triumphantly. Labour muttered in dismay.
‘It met this morning.’
The Tories jeered even more triumphantly and Labour fell silent. And so the issue of citizens freezing to death on the streets was turned into a debate about some overpaid memo-scribblers eating hobnobs in a warm office.
Blame the vocabulary. May loves plans and boards and committees. ‘Task-force,’ is her favourite because it makes inaction look energetic, and cluelessness seem decisive. She also spoke of ‘an expert advisory group’ on rough-sleeping which operates alongside ‘the task-force’. She sounded thrilled when she said that the advisory group’s ‘expertise’ had been communicated to ‘the task-force’. Yeah. That’s bound to help.
No one knows if there are more tramps or fewer shivering in our shop-doorways. But every tramp is keeping at least a dozen pen-pushers off the streets.