For the final time this year, Nancy Martin watches PMQs so you don’t have to.
Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions was a rowdy end to the calendar year, as MPs gathered in the Chamber to hear their party leaders argue over the dispatch boxes for one final time.
Issue of the week
Jeremy Corbyn focused his questions on Labour’s traditional heartland, the NHS. His questions were notably sharper and more focused than they have been of late, calling for a ‘cast-iron guarantee’ on targets and probing specific issues around GPs and A&E. However, the exchange descended into something of a statistics battle as both Mr Corbyn and the Prime Minister traded competing figures.
Mrs May was bullish in her defence of the Government’s record on the NHS, as well as falling back on comparisons with the Labour-run NHS in Wales, to groans from the party opposite. She seemed to rattle Mr Corbyn when she quoted him calling the NHS under Labour a ‘mess’, and managed to shoehorn in her new slogan, ‘fit for the future’. The Prime Minister sat down from her final confrontation with Corbyn of the year to a barrage of ‘more’ from the MPs sitting behind her.
A confident and well-prepared Prime Minister was on show today, with her pre-prepared lines such as ‘Conservatives back you, the SNP tax you’ landing better than they might have done in some previous exchanges. Although he was on solid Labour ground on the subject of the NHS, Jeremy Corbyn failed to land any strong blows and did not react well to having his own apparent NHS criticism quoted back at him.
The Conservatives, perhaps feeling the festive spirit, assumed the role of pantomime audience today, laughing uproariously and crying ‘ah!’ in the right places. For the Prime Minister to have made it to Christmas certainly wasn’t guaranteed back in June – today’s performance showed a party willing, for now, to have her at their helm.
Shockingly, it seems that the plaudit this week should be assigned to the Chancellor, not a man known for his one-liners. As Clive Efford suggested that the Prime Minister call her Christmas goose Michael or Boris, Philip Hammond leaned forward and audibly suggest that Mrs May suggest ‘Jeremy’ as an alternative – a line she then used. A Christmas miracle?