Corbyn finds his voice ahead of the final Labour Leadership debate, as he takes on the PM over grammar schools policy. Alice Hawken watched it so you don’t have to.
Issue of the Week
In a week when David “Brits don’t quit” Cameron gave up his seat whilst others are clamouring to hang on to theirs, it was Corbyn and May’s third meeting for PMQs. With Brexit and grammar schools amongst the trickier issues for Theresa May this week, she can be forgiven for wanting to discuss the newly released employment figures.
Unfortunately for her, the real issue of this week’s PMQs was undoubtedly grammar schools.
After last week’s disappointing performance, Corbyn came back fighting and was strong in his questioning of the government’s grammar school plans. He was structured, focussed, reactive and robust on the question of inequality, leaving May looking ruffled and somewhat surprised at her counterpart’s uncharacteristic performance.
Corbyn used his first question to sarcastically praise May about bringing unity amongst education experts – unity against grammar school proposals that is – before asking May if she could name any education experts who backed her plans. Presumably this was not a question May had an answer to, and this did not go unnoticed by Corbyn, who produced a quote from his own expert, a teacher called John, before moving back to a more detailed policy question. Using a quote in this way, rather than as the basis for a question, was a clever move from Corbyn, and May again did not have an answer for him – sticking rigidly to her soundbites and her script sheet.
In an attempt to distract from her poor performance on the grammar school debate, May brought up the employment figures: “I notice it is your fifth question – but you have not yet welcomed the employment figures”. Corbyn welcomed them…before swiftly returning to flattening May on grammar schools.
In a last ditch attempt to disrupt Corbyn’s stride, May brought up the Labour leadership debate, reminding the house this could be his last PMQs, “certainly if his MPs have anything to do with it”, she added – even that joke fell flat.
Corbyn was the clear winner today, reactive and unrelenting in his take-down of May. The Prime Minister will be glad of the party conference recess following that performance and her MPs may be just a little less settled.
Conservative MP, Victoria Atkins, who made significant comments about the importance of freedom of speech in Universities which she argued is being undermined by ‘safe spaces’.
Initially the Tories, but the rare sound of a united Labour Party and an uncertain performance from the PM certainly ran them close as the contest went on.
Corbyn garnered a laugh today when he said “The two things the Prime Minister and I have in common are we can both remember the 1950s, and we can both remember going to grammar school.”