Pagefield PMQs 20/01/16

Pagefield PMQs 20/01/16

Marie Lorimer

Cuts to student maintenance grants were top of the agenda at this week’s PMQs. Marie Lorimer watched it so you don’t have to.

Who won?

A failure from Corbyn this week on the safe ground of student bursary cuts. The validity of Corbyn’s contentions was solid, however, his line of questioning fell short, phrasing almost rhetorical remarks about the injustice of it all: “Where is the sense in doing this? Why are they abolishing those maintenance grants?”

By taking this approach, Corbyn continues to allow Cameron to optimise his position by spinning key Conservative party messages. Cameron continues to portray Corbyn as a toxic brand, which he now infers is bleeding into the remainder of the party, classifying the entire Labour party as both ‘anti-aspirational’ and a threat to national security. Cameron also quoted Ed Balls’ remarks on university funding schemes as  ‘unsustainable’, which he used to corroborate his argument for reform. This demonstrates now even moderate Labour figures are being utilised as a political tool against the party leader.

Issue of the week

This week, Jeremy Corbyn attacked David Cameron over the scrapping of student grants and nurse bursaries. Cameron retorted by insisting that future plans for financing students university education under the Tory government would stabilise university financing on more sustainable grounds.

This is somewhat of a government U-turn on 2010 policy where Cameron outlined, “We must always help people from lower income backgrounds, that’s why we protect bursaries.”  Labour had the opportunity to exploit this connection, particularly when Cameron’s messaging seemed mixed at points. On one hand, Cameron stated he does not want to force taxpayers to subsidise wealthier students for higher education, but also contended he wants more students from low-income families to attend university.

The student vote is safe with Corbyn, therefore, his attentions this week may have been better placed exploring new issues, namely the problems in the Welsh steel industry. Corbyn briefly mentioned this, citing the loss of jobs in Port Talbot steel works in rebuttal to Cameron’s endorsement of the most recent employment figures. This should have received more airtime.

Rowdiest party

The Tories were particularly lively this week, with Corbyn halting his line of questioning to accost heckler Gavin Williamson with the question, “Are you done?”

Rising Star

For the second week running, a moderate Labour MP held the floor to absolute silence from the house. Wes Streeting’s reception was clearly in contrast to the jeers which greet Corbyn from the Conservative side week-on-week. The Ilford North MP asked what the government is doing to tackle knife crime, following the recent incident of a teenager who was stabbed in his constituency.

Corporate mention

Labour MP Gareth Thomas asked the Prime Minister to endorse employee profit-sharing programmes within companies which he highlighted exemplify the “best of British businesses”. He damningly offered Sports Direct as a model of companies which do not operate exemplary business practices.

Joke of the week

Bercow’s ‘chuntering’ interjection gets a nod this week, reprimanding Cameron’s PPS Gavin Williamson rambunctious behaviour whilst Corbyn was at the pulpit. Bercow commented, “Auditioning to be a statesman doesn’t mean chuntering from a sedentary position”

In addition, Cameron continued his well-rehearsed bantering this week, using song titles from The Beatles to attack Corbyn’s opposition to Trident.

In 140 characters

Labour attacking govt on student grant cuts, but Corbyn can’t land anything on PM. His questioning just allows PM to spin key messages #PMQs