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Theresa May tries out a new Brexit delay excuse

8 May 2019

5:07 PM

8 May 2019

5:07 PM

PMQs began with Janet Daby calling for a mass-cull of the working-class. The Labour MP relayed the experience of an industrious constituent who already has two jobs, on zero-hour contracts, and seeks a third. ‘Ban zero hours contracts!’ she declared in outrage. Obviously she’s fed up with people working in her constituency. Much easier if they all starve to death. And with her policies they will.

Labour leader Jeremy Corybn had good news about the NHS which he’d failed to interpret correctly. Forty per cent of staff last year, he said, had suffered ‘work-related stress’. This means that 60 per cent of them hadn’t. Not a twinge, not a whisper of anxiety during 12 long months of underfunded chaos. Labour likes to depict the NHS as a country-wide network of torture units where wheezing pensioners twist and sprawl in dung-soaked sheets which will shortly serve as their shrouds. And yet, according to Corbyn, the staff at these charnel-houses go skipping about their work whistling merrily without a care in the world.

He accused the Prime Minister of creating a ‘dangerous’ health service through sheer miserliness. Theresa May retorted that the NHS was enjoying ‘the biggest cash-boost in its history.’ No, insisted Corbyn, ‘it’s the longest funding-squeeze in its history.’

The ding-dong went on and on. They clashed on percentages, they clashed on staff numbers, they clashed on some extraordinarily abstruse ratio between primary care spending and overall budgets. Corbyn claimed that his party had lavished untold riches on the NHS. ‘Our NHS,’ he claimed. May yelled back that Labour had starved the NHS –  ‘our NHS’ again – of funds. Up, down, Yes, no. In, out. Shake it all about. They were like two inmates at Broadmoor doing the inkblot test. It’s an avalanche. It’s a leprechaun. It’s a wheelbarrow. It’s an igloo made of myrrh. It’s Liberace being eaten by a carnivorous skyscraper.

Then a moment of quiet drama. Tory Brexiteer, Andrea Jenkyns, stood up in a tense silence and read out the PM’s school-report. Actually it was fairly positive in parts. Tried hard, solid effort, bags of commitment and all that. However – pause, drum-roll – ‘she failed.’ It was time, said Jenkyns, to ‘let someone else lead the party, the country and the negotiations.’

And guess what? Our unsinkable PM refused to believe she was sinking. ‘It isn’t about me,’ she began.

‘If it were about me,’ she reasoned slyly, ‘and how I voted, we would already have left the EU.’

She was accusing her accuser of slaying Brexit. Andrea Jenkyns, by voting against the hated withdrawal stitch-up, had scuppered Britain’s escape bid. That was a new one. Brexiteers are responsible for no-Brexit.

May’s dazzling effrontery should have won her the Cheeky Fibber of the Day award. But the prize was ultimately scooped by Liz Saville Roberts. The Plaid Cymru MP said she ‘looked forward to Wales taking its place among the sovereign nations of Europe.’

But hang on. Wales as a ‘sovereign nation’ is the one thing her party won’t support. Rummage through the Plaid website and you’ll be hard put to find any mention of the party’s founding policy. The home-page opens with this supine announcement. ‘They have the money and we have the people.’ A begging-bowl being rattled, clearly. ‘Why vote Plaid Cymru?’ it asks. The obvious answer – ‘to forge a new rich and autonomous Wales.’ But no. Nothing like that. ‘To give the people a final say with Remain firmly on the ballot paper’ – which means overturning Wales’s pro-Brexit vote. The only ‘independence’ Plaid will consider is their ‘independence’ of the electorate’s wishes.

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