Social care at the top of the agenda as Corbyn delivers a confident performance. Marie Lorimer watched PMQs so you don’t have to.
Issue of the Week
Described by Conservative MPs and Ministers over the weekend as the ‘biggest domestic problem in the in-tray’ and a ‘barometer for the kind of country we are’ (The Times), social care took centre stage as Labour continued to put pressure on the Government’s record in the area.
The battle between Corbyn and May ultimately came down to a question of funding vs. delivery. Whilst the Prime Minister was conciliatory in her approach, acknowledging both short-term pressures and the need for long-term solutions, she said the onus was on local authorities to improve the efficiency of social care delivery.
However, her plans to increase council tax to prop-up the social care budget at local authority level were rebuked by the Opposition leader. He stated that whilst this may be a revenue solution in the PM’s own wealthy constituency of Windsor and Maidenhead, it would garner much less income in cities such as Liverpool. He added, “Is she saying that older people, frail, elderly, vulnerable people are less valuable in our big cities than they are in wealthier parts of the country?”
Social care is a policy issue Corbyn can speak about with familiarity and confidence and so this week saw an easy win for the Opposition. It is proving a useful platform for Labour on which to attack May’s track record on social justice and Corbyn’s comments about the institutional lack of care for the elderly and vulnerable, does nothing for the Prime Minister’s rhetoric around helping JAMs.
May’s proposed solutions were not as strong as Corbyn’s well-prepared comments on the impact of cuts, highlighting that £4.6billion was cut from the social care budget in the last parliament. In addition, his referral to criticism within the PM’s own party was tactfully deployed, as Health Select Committee Chair Sarah Wollaston later asked the Prime Minister a direct question on long-term funding plans for social care.
With little room for manoeuvre, May was forced to resort to attacking the record of the last Labour government. Corbyn ends 2016 on one of his better PMQ performances.
Best Joke/ Rowdiest Party
Peter Dowd (Lab, Bootle) opened PMQ proceedings with a quick quip about Boris Johnson:
“In light of Foreign Secretary’s display of chronic foot in mouth disease, when deciding on cabinet positions does the Prime Minister now regret that penciling ‘FO’ against his name should have been an instruction, not a job offer?”
This joke prompted raucous laughter from the Opposition, undoubtedly the rowdiest moment in this week’s PMQs.
The on-going Southern rail crisis was raised by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton. He criticised the continued strike by Aslef train drivers, who are already operating trains without guards on Thameslink routes. He said this is preventing his constituents from reaching hospital appointments, school and work. The Prime Minister urged Labour to intervene in the crisis, due to their strong links with the union.
Mentioned by both May and Corbyn at PMQs, was the new charity single recorded in memory of Jo Cox, organised by Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan MP. The record features the voices of many of Jo Cox’s parliamentary friends and colleagues, as well as singers David Gray, KT Tunstall and Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson. It is due to be released on December 16th 2016 and the VAT on sales of the single will be donated to charity.