Nancy Martin watches PMQs so you don’t have to…
Issue of the week
Given the scale of the accusations that have engulfed Westminster in the last week, it was unsurprising to see the Prime Minister open her remarks today by addressing head on the issue of harassment in Parliament, announcing that she had invited the leaders of the other political parties to a meeting early next week to work on a solution. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, responded that they would be happy to attend such a meeting.
Jeremy Corbyn’s line of questioning this week was perhaps a little obscure – how likely is it that the issue of imported jets being sold through the Isle of Man to avoid tax was one the Prime Minister had prepared for? It seems Corbyn was trying to raise awareness of a recent leak similar to the Panama Papers, as he made a wider point about tax avoidance. The Prime Minister yet again referred to the previous Labour Government as part of her defence, highlighting the cost of paying interest on Government debt.
A potentially explosive moment came towards the end, where Wigan MP Lisa Nandy claimed that she had previously raised concerns about whips using compromising information about MPs’ private lives to exert control. This was followed by Ms Nandy tweeting a Written Question on the subject from 2014. Whilst Theresa May promised to look at the issue, it certainly feels like this moment could cause some real damage to the former women’s minister now in Number 10.
After some consideration I would chalk this up as a nil-nil draw. Corbyn had a strong final question as he drew a comparison between the money lost through tax avoidance and the money needed for public services, but he didn’t manage to truly get under the Prime Minister’s skin. Given the topics available to him, this seems like a missed open goal.
It was Lisa Nandy who clearly had Theresa May on the ropes this week, and although she dealt with it calmly, it’s unlikely we have heard the last of Nandy’s claim.
The Conservative benches had a very loud reaction when Theresa May entered the Commons, forcing the Speaker to intervene to ensure Welsh Questions could finish on time. This was soon countered by the indomitable Dennis Skinner, whose anger about the impact of HS2 in his constituency was palpable as he was cheered on by the Labour benches.
As Philip Hammond conferred with Theresa May before she answered, Emily Thornberry’s voice could be heard ringing out. ‘Prime Minister’s Questions, isn’t it?’ she yelled. ‘He can be Prime Minister if you want!’