Peter Turay watched today’s PMQs so you don’t have to – here’s his take.
Issue of the Week
It was the day of the Deputies in the House of Commons today – with First Secretary of State, Damian Green, and Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry taking to the despatch box in place of their principals to discuss Brexit. With the Prime Minster busy hosting the King of Spain’s state visit – Green was left to be grilled by Thornberry on the Government’s approach to “no deal” and the wider implications around the UK’s ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Despite a stellar performance from Green, Thornberry came out on top in her debut session, showing herself to be a natural at the despatch box and far more quick-witted, dynamic and effective than her principal as well as her opponent on the day. Many will be wondering why she hasn’t taught her Party Leader how to frame questions in a similar way over the last year…
Thornberry used the Tory frontbench divisions on Brexit to her advantage, citing the contrasting positions of the Foreign Secretary, Brexit Secretary, Chancellor and Prime Minister to state, “if the party opposite hasn’t got the strength for the task then we have got to get rid of them”. Green ultimately conceded, saying that it was “conceivable” that walking away without an agreement would be better than a “punishment deal” – before reminding the opposition benches that it was his party who had received the most votes, most seats and won the election.
Thornberry managed today to successfully exploit the often-conflicting approaches around the Cabinet to Brexit and highlight the confusion in government Brexit policy. Given Labour’s position on Brexit (or lack thereof) it is surprising that Green failed to do the same.
The Tories were once again the rowdiest in the House, as they got behind their newly appointed First Secretary of State.
Both Green and Thornberry showed themselves as more than suitable stand-ins, highlighting the flaws in their own leaders at PMQs and displaying both charisma and fleet of foot.
In an increasingly volatile political backdrop, it isn’t too farfetched to imagine Thornberry moving to Deputy Leader, in place of Tom Watson, and even Green serving as a ‘caretaker PM’ if May was to step down.
Green livened up the House towards the end of the session, humorously congratulating Tim Farron for adopting his government’s ‘Fuller Working Lives’ (a programme aimed at helping the older generation find work) in reference to the imminent appointment of the 74-year-old Vince Cable as his Party’s new leader.