Pagefield’s newest recruits Kate Begg and Nancy Martin watched today’s PMQs, so in case you missed it – here’s their take.
Issue of the week
MPs have returned to the House for the first PMQs following a somewhat ‘eventful’ conference season *cough*. Despite the multiple arrows that will have collected in Corbyn’s quiver over the last few weeks, the Labour Leader chose to use nearly all of his questions to attack the Prime Minister on the issues surrounding Universal Credit, much to the delight of his fellow Labour colleagues.
Firing numerous accusations across the Chamber that the government’s roll-out of universal credit was driving up poverty and homelessness, Corbyn called for Mrs May to halt the process. Bowing slightly, the Prime Minster accepted that flaws in the system remained but stressed that she had listened to concerns and that operational performance was increasing, resulting in over 80% of people now receiving payments on time. Mrs May reiterated that the Conservatives were committed to ensuring that the welfare system provided a safety net for citizens and one that helped people into the workplace. Criticising Labour for creating a system in which people were better off on benefits than in work, the Prime Minister noted that because of Labour, 1.4 million people spent most of last decade trapped out of work and the number of households where no member had ever worked doubled, with the welfare bill going up by 60% in real terms.
Corbyn used his final – and strongest – question to hammer home a string of government failures, describing a ‘government in chaos’, accusing the Prime Minister of making no progress on Brexit, driving up debt for young people, an NHS at breaking point and a Cabinet more interested in in-fighting amongst themselves than solving these problems.
The Prime Minister responded just as strongly, outlining a record of government successes including a reduced deficit by over two thirds and three million more jobs. Much to the delight of her backbenches, Theresa May (bravely) accused Labour of a poor performance at conference, which saw criticism of Labour’s housing policy and threats from the Leader of Brighton Council to ban future Labour conferences because of anti-Semitism.
Given the truly shambolic context of the Prime Minister’s speech at Conservative Party Conference last week, the confident and combative tone she struck today was enough of a contrast to chalk it up as a win. At several points, she even seemed to be enjoying herself. Jeremy Corbyn was on good form, but arguably could have focused on more uncomfortable areas for the Prime Minister, following her refusal yesterday to say how she would vote in a new EU referendum.
This week, Labour win the accolade hands down. There were huge cheers for Jeremy Corbyn throughout his questioning, as well as barracking aimed at Theresa May, forcing to her sit down twice so the Speaker could call for calm.
Never one to pass up an opportunity for a quip, John Bercow yelled in one of his appeals for order, ‘Mr Kerr, we’re not having any pranksters here’. Too soon for the PM to laugh along, perhaps.