14 October 2015

PMQs was a narrow win for Jeremy Corbyn


I’m no fan of PMQs. I hated the old shouty exchanges, and the new Corbyn version is also quite annoying too, but in a different way. The leader of the opposition has adopted an approach which is best summed up as “Maths teacher from 1983 struggles to control class.”

For that reason I am not going to write a long analysis or sketch of what just happened there today. You’re busy; we’re all busy. Life is short. It’s time for lunch. But here are three quick points.

1) It was a narrow win for Corbyn. Not because he was brilliant. He wasn’t. He did score with his questions to Cameron about tax credits, however. The Tories are privately uncomfortable about the coming cuts in this area and they are right to be nervous. Tax credits could be big trouble for them next year when workers who had to listen to months of the Tories saying they were for “hardworking people” get hammered by the changes. Corbyn’s questioning was effective. His question on cancer also introduced a note of humanity and reality to the weird world of Westminster PMQs

2) The Tories will be pleased that Corbyn was okay today. I’m not joking. Indeed, I’ve already written many times that the guy is a national disaster who must be removed. But he has had such a bad run in the the last week that his long-term survival has started to look doubtful again. The Tories think he is an electoral calamity for Labour and want him to stay as long as possible. A narrow win helps prop him up.

3) Corbyn missed an open goal on Saudi Arabia in the wake of the government’s u-turn. Ministers have this week withdrawn their bid for a contract with the brutal Saudi prison service. Corbyn put this subject on the agenda in his conference speech and it is bizarre that he didn’t choose to exploit it robustly at PMQs. If he had asked Cameron about the decision – and why on earth the contract was considered in the first place – he would have won the session comfortably. The Tories are newly uncomfortable about links to Saudi Arabia, just as they are uncomfortable about the pain coming over tax credits. Perhaps Corbyn was sent no emails on Saudi by voters? Another illustration perhaps that his Five Live phone-in style approach is badly flawed. It inhibits flexibility.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX