Is it last week already? Forced academisation: round two. Marie Lorimer watched this week’s PMQs so you don’t have to.
Issue of the week
It’s been a busy week in British politics – the Hillsborough inquest was concluded, Labour MP Naz Shah is at the centre of an anti-Semitism row and we saw the first all-out junior doctors’ strike in NHS history.
But there appeared to be an echo in the chamber parroting last week’s political agenda, Corbyn again focussing all six of his questions to the Prime Minister on education policy. Last week, Corbyn effectively exposed rifts within the Conservative party over forced academisation. However, in the last seven days, no new Conservative MPs have publicly opposed the proposal, meaning there were few developments to disarm the PM.
This is the second time Corbyn has failed to mention the junior doctor’s strike at PMQs at a crucial time in the debate. Considering Labour successfully brokered a deal with the BMA to a pilot the new junior doctors’ contract, a measure rejected by the Health Secretary, perfect political ammo was presented, but not fired. The strike merely earned a passing reference in Corbyn’s sixth question.
Cameron once again wins by default. Corbyn re-trod claimed territory, failing to build upon the gains he made last week. His new approach to PMQs would have been better utilised by diversifying his issue of the week, but the opposition leader failed to do so.
It wasn’t the Prime Minister’s best performance either. He was visibly uncomfortable with some questions on education, his first comment on Naz Shah was ill-delivered, and he showcased his arrogance with the following comment: “I’m on my fifth Labour leader and if he carries on like this I’ll be on the sixth” .
What is clear, however, is that Corbyn’s congenial political experiment is over. For a third week running, there were no crowdsourced questions, instead, Corbyn sought to rile his side of the chamber against the Tories. Corbyn’s new strategy mimics that of past leaders, using an established formula in his attempt to win PMQs. It’s about time he turned to the dark side.
Conservative MP for Fareham, Suella Fernandes, raised the subject of anti-Semitism in her question to the Prime Minister. This highlighted Labour MP Naz Shah’s social media posts from 2014, in which she suggested Israel should be relocated to America. Fernandes commented, “When those in public life express such views, they denigrate not only themselves but the institute to which they belong.” This comment sparked Cameron’s response in which he promptly called for Shah to be expelled from the Labour party. Cameron recalled that John McDonnell had defined Labour’s stance on anti-Semites as “out, out, out”.
Labour was the rowdiest party for the second week running. The Prime Minister even interrupted their raucous behaviour with a scolding remark, “If you shout, you won’t hear the answer.”
Byron Davies, the Conservative MP for Gower mentioned Tata Steel when asking about the package to secure the long-term prospects of steel production in Wales. Cameron reassured the house he was working hard to secure the future of steel production throughout the UK but noted there was no guarantee of success.
Joke of the week
There were a few rousing chuckles in reaction to Labour MP Ben Bradshaw’s pronunciation of Farage. Apparently it’s Farridge from now on, ladies and gents.