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PMQs: May and Corbyn sound like a sketch about a deaf shopkeeper

22 May 2019

4:43 PM

22 May 2019

4:43 PM

Tories who still support Theresa May are as rare as bumblebees in Antarctica. Her backbenchers were too polite to mention her imminent departure at PMQs but her opponents couldn’t resist poking fun. The PM began with her ritual announcement about ‘meeting ministerial colleagues and others’. Up stood John Woodcock.

‘She may not have long left, and good luck with those “meetings later today”’.

Mike Amesbury said his question about lease-holders would interest her, ‘now that she’s about to move house.’ Toby Perkins asked her to increase SEN funding ‘in her final days.’

Jeremy Corbyn led on school budgets too. They’re down, he claimed. As he always does. No, no, they’re up, said the PM. She always makes this claim as well. Neither will shift their position, and their exchange today sounded like a sketch about a deaf shopkeeper.

Corbyn: Why are 26 schools so short of cash they have to close every Friday?

May: We are giving every area more money for every pupil in every school.

Corbyn: Has per-pupil funding risen or fallen since 2010?

May: We are giving every area more money for every pupil in every school.

Corbyn: Per-pupil funding has fallen since 2010, prime minister.

May: We are giving every area more money for every pupil in every school.

Marsha de Cordova brought up the UN’s Special Rapporteur (or ‘special repertoire’, as she curiously styled him), who claims that ‘19th century work-house’ conditions exist in Britain. The MP for Battersea told us that ‘debt, destitution and despair’ have seized her constituents – even though they live in one of the capital’s most desirable neighbourhoods. And if they truly feel ‘despair’ this must owe itself in part to their being taxed to fund an international pauper-gawper like Mr Miseryguts from the UN.

Iain Duncan Smith raised the injustice of veterans being prosecuted in Northern Ireland without fresh evidence being adduced.

The PM gave a formulaic response about ‘a fair and just system that is working across the board to deal with these legacy issues.’

Owen Paterson asked for a ‘categorical assurance’ that new prosecutions would not be brought without new evidence.

The PM: ‘There have been a number of processes aiming to deal with issues, in justice, in relation to these deaths during the Troubles and these process are flawed …’

Johnny Mercer tried and got the same automated response. Mark Francois made a chilling intervention on behalf of a veteran who had prevented an IRA terrorist from assassinating a fellow infantryman. The soldier, now a Chelsea pensioner, is under investigation for an incident that took place 47 years ago. Amazingly he’s a Dublin-born Catholic.

Mark Francois gave the soldier’s name and quoted him directly.

‘Acting under the lawful orders of my officer commanding, I killed a terrorist. Why are you pandering to Sinn Fein-IRA while throwing veterans to the wolves?’

May burbled though her set-piece reply.

‘We thank that individual,’ she said, having forgotten his name. ‘What I want to ensure is that we have a fair and just system… But at the moment I do not believe the system is operating fairly and I want to see a system where investigations can take place in a lawful manner…’

On she went, filling the chamber with bubbles of air. Mark Francois muttered under his breath. Johnny Mercer slumped, his head in his hands. What an embarrassment.

Brexit’s not the only thing this PM has bodged.

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