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Corbyn scored a lasting triumph at PMQs

12 February 2020

6:05 PM

12 February 2020

6:05 PM

Things got pretty tasty at PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn was well prepared and emerged, messily, as the victor. It started badly for the Labour leader. Ironic cheers rang out when his name was called. Up he stood. But instead of building to a joyous climax, the cheers dropped to nothing. Stark silence followed. This seemed amusing and was greeted by facetious guffaws. Poor Jezza. Even his pauses are laughing at him.

He brought up the 17 foreign-born criminals deported to Jamaica. A tricky case has emerged. A boy who arrived in Britain aged five, was coerced into peddling drugs and was given a jail-term. But since his release he hasn’t re-offended.

‘Does he deserve to be deported?’ asked Corbyn.

‘Entirely right,’ said the PM.

Corbyn gloated. ‘Has the government learned nothing from the Windrush scandal?’ Racism, he suggested, was behind the removals. He offered a comparison. Imagine, he suggested, a white blond boy, born overseas, who ‘later dabbled in class-A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist.’

This was getting personal. He meant Boris, of course, a native of New York.

And the bit about ‘beating up a journalist’ seemed to break new parliamentary ground. A serving prime minister was being accused by the opposition leader of having committed an imprisonable offence.

Hard for Boris to ignore. Perhaps, at last, he would explain the infamous taped phone-call in which Darius Guppy, a convicted fraudster, asked him to reveal the address of a bothersome journalist whom Guppy wanted roughed-up. On the tape, Boris appeared to condone Guppy’s scheme. (My feeling has always been that Guppy was enacting a tough-guy fantasy, and Boris was playing along to make Guppy feel big.)

The prime minister stood up, puffing himself out self-righteously.

‘Mr Speaker,’ he boomed, ‘he demeans himself and he besmirches the reputation of the Windrush generation who came here to work in our public services…He has no right to conflate them with the foreign national offenders we are deporting.’

Nifty or shifty, this worked a treat. So Boris won that little tussle. But Corbyn scored a lasting triumph. He has placed on record an accusation of criminality which Boris has failed to answer.

Corbyn turned to Anne Sacoolas, the American held responsible for the death of Harry Dunn. Sacoolas, now rumoured to have been a CIA operative, may have benefited from special US protection. Corbyn said bluntly that that the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, knew this all along.

‘He misled the Dunn family,’ Corbyn declared. He must be sacked. ‘Tomorrow!’ he added.

‘Stupid man,’ spat Raab, audibly.

Corbyn quoted the testimony of Harry Dunn’s mother. ‘They’ve not been honest with us.’

More trouble for Raab and the Prime Minister. Playing the international statesman, Corbyn criticised the ‘lopsided’ extradition arrangements between London and Washington. These should be ‘equal and balanced,’ he said.

‘He has a point,’ Boris agreed, ‘in his characterisation of our extradition treaty with the US.’ He added that ‘elements of it are unbalanced.’

Unbalanced? He corrected himself. ‘Imbalanced.’

It looked like another thumping win for Corbyn, even though Boris made the concession voluntarily. In years to come, this session of PMQs will be remembered fondly by every Labour member. The day that Corbyn truly socked it to the Blond.


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