PMQs is clearly broken and only Brexiteers know how to fix it. Theresa May should leave. Jeremy Corbyn should remain and put questions to Boris next week and to Jeremy Hunt the week after. A test of both candidates in match conditions would be welcomed by all. But it won’t happen. A Tory party that can’t extract us from the EU has no hope of giving PMQs the tweak it needs.
Today we had another snooze-in with Tory backbenchers falling over each other to congratulate May on her exemplary record and visionary leadership. She’s the worst PM since Eden and they all pretended she was Pericles.
Andrea Leadsom praised her work on behalf of disadvantaged babies. The PM, to the astonishment of nobody, agreed with her. She hoped that in future,
‘Where a child gets to depends on their talents not on their background.’
‘Background’ is code for ‘parents’, of course, but it’s unwise to alienate voters by telling the truth.
Oliver Heald toasted her ‘ground-breaking work’ on domestic violence. ‘Would she tell us a little more about the bill that is about to come before the house,’ he oiled, ‘and how that will help victims of crime?’
Why is he sucking up? He’s already got a knighthood.
There were loud calls for taxes to be squirted around recklessly. Labour’s Chris Bryant asked the PM to hand out free sun-screen to anyone working outdoors. He cited police officers posted outside parliament and feeling the effects of Greta-strength solar radiation. But once the cops get free gloop, everyone else will clamour for it: tree surgeons, lollipop ladies, porn stars filming on the beach.
Jeremy Corbyn mounted an attack based on the conflicting bids of Hunt and Johnson for the premiership. It’s obvious May couldn’t care less. But when Corbyn asked if the no-deal panic was just ‘confected hysteria’ (Boris’s term), she did something curious and perhaps significant. She said Labour had effectively voted for no deal when they opposed her Withdrawal Agreement.
Which is partly true. In fact, no deal didn’t happen on March 29 because May went grovelling to Brussels and begged them to extend our membership for a few more months at a cost of squillions. Nothing to do with Labour.
But May’s successor will find it helpful to quote her doctrine that anyone who voted against the WA was supporting no deal. It makes Labour no dealers.
May raised the opposition’s internal squabbles by reading out a list of shadow cabinet ministers who mistrust Brexit, starting with Keir Starmer and ending with Tom Watson. A plot to topple Corbyn may be in the works but Corbyn, rather amazingly, outsmarted his foes by announcing that they’re right.
‘The best thing would be to go back to the people and let them decide,’ he said.
Blimey. That only took three years.
Labour’s Hugh Gaffney made the most embarrassing intervention of the day. He accused the PM of depriving his 89-year-old father of his ‘main source of company’, his television. The PM shrugged and blamed the BBC. But who is responsible? Gaffney appears not to have considered funding the TV licence out of his colossal MP’s salary. For just three quid a week he could alleviate his dad’s emotional isolation. But no. He’d rather exploit the old boy for political ends.