The second PMQs of the year saw Jeremy Corbyn focus on housing policy in a performance which never quite took off. Nathan Jones reports.
Despite the manner in which the Tories continue to provide a weekly supply of choice issues for Labour to attack on, the latter’s ongoing malaise continues to seep into Corbyn’s PMQs performances. Despite asking competent questions on a pressing issue, Corbyn’s manner and delivery make it hard to feel that he really landed the issue, especially when faced with Cameron’s incumbent advantage of quoting back his administration’s record. Further, the Labour leadership’s alienation of swathes of the party, combined with its ongoing failure to give the impression of even an elementary understanding of media relations, means that Corbyn doesn’t have much of a platform to go on from the dispatch box.
Issue of the week
Jeremy Corbyn decided to focus on the issue of housing this week, following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday of a new plan to demolish and rebuild sink estates. The initiative was branded as giving residents of some of the country’s grittier council estates a boost, but Corbyn decided to get into the detail by seeking to prise a series of pledges on the security of current residents from Cameron.
The decision to examine one topic closely was a good one, although the fact that it affects only a small percentage of the country risked perpetuating the impression that Labour is only interested in the least well off. Corbyn raised a series of legitimate concerns however, chief among which was whether or not Britain’s working poor would even be able to afford Cameron’s new low-income housing.
A lack-lustre session failed to get either side of the house particularly excited.
Dan Jarvis, Labour’s man in Barnsley Central with the much-discussed leadership potential, asked the PM on the issue of deaths of the elderly in winter, and did so before a rarely silent audience. His reception is perhaps indicative of the respect he seems to command across the House, and his question was sensible with a reasonably bi-partisan tone. Following on from an interview in last weekend’s Guardian which saw him express regret over not preparing more for the leadership election, he is this week’s rising star.
An honourable mention must go to Tania Matthias however, who certainly takes the ‘Most Emphatic’ gong this week. A dramatically enunciated question on air pollution saw her make a mark, although vigorous opposition to Heathrow may put the brakes on any ministerial aspirations for a while.
Aldi was mentioned by Gordon Henderson in light of their having located a distribution centre in his Kent constituency. Henderson was so excited by the centre that he asked the Prime Minister for a commitment to his favourite constituency road link.
Joke of the week
Light on jokes this week, our favourite comment was Cameron’s use of ‘small c conservative’ to describe his opposite number. It’s a clever attack from someone seeking to defend the centre ground on an opponent who wants to be seen as progressive, but who often finds himself supporting very old ideas indeed.
In 140 characters
Corbyn asks important questions on housing and affordability, but never quite lands his punches. Cameron by default #PMQs