Our newest consultant Nancy Martin watched PMQs. Here is her take in case you missed it.
Issue of the week
Battle lines were drawn on familiar territory for PMQs this week, as Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May traded blows on the issue of the cost of living. Unsurprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn highlighted the Government’s action on the Universal Credit helpline, which will now be free to call – this is ahead of a Labour motion to pause the rollout of Universal Credit later today. Unsurprisingly, Theresa May then recommitted to the principle of Universal Credit.
The two adversaries then both offered their competing views about the state of the UK economy. Theresa May told the Commons that ‘the Government has no money of its own’, avoiding giving specifics on the details of a pay rise for public sector workers. Jeremy Corbyn later asked ‘How does the Prime Minister have the nerve to come here and talk about a strong economy when the figures show the exact opposite?’
Clearly scenting blood following the Government’s Universal Credit concessions, the issue was repeatedly raised by Labour backbenchers throughout the session. Expect to see many MP’s press releases flagging their questions in local newspapers later today.
The arguments of whether the economy is helping or hurting working people had a rather rehearsed quality today, as each party cheered the familiar lines given by their leader. Arguably no side landed a sucker punch, but the Prime Minister should consider that her refrain about only having money to spend on public services with a Conservative Government will be undermined for the rest of the Parliamentary term by her deal with the DUP. Corbyn edged it this week – and the current Labour leadership winning the argument on the economy should rattle the Government.
John Bercow claimed that today’s PMQs were ‘exceptionally noisy’, perhaps as he was trying to impress his visiting Dutch counterpart. There certainly were some walls of noise, with Esther McVey unable to get through the very first question without sitting down, and Theresa May facing a barracking when she stuttered. A special mention should go to Laura Pidcock, who took strong exception to Mrs May’s response to her question on Universal Credit.
Showcasing how much more at ease he is at PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn scored an early laugh by asking, ‘Mr Speaker, I wonder if the Prime Minister can do a first, and answer a question?’ Sassy Corbyn may be here to stay.