Jeremy Corbyn used all six of his questions at PMQs on Brexit for the second week running – but what is his real motivation?
The Labour leader started with a real-deal zinger: ‘When the prime minister wrote that she wanted as little friction as possible was she talking about EU trade or the next cabinet meeting?’
Theresa May, a wry smile on her face, couldn’t defend that one. She knows how damaging the squabbling and backbiting in her cabinet over the customs union must appear to the public.
But Corbyn’s Brexit questions – both this week and last – are more about leaving the prime minster red-faced than actually getting to the bottom of what the hell is going on with Brexit negotiations.
He followed up his strong start with: ‘The divisions in the cabinet mean there has been no progress on negotiations for five months. The reality is the cabinet is more interested in negotiating with each other than it is with the EU.’
And he is right – of course he is. And it makes absolute sense for him to attempt to embarrass May at the dispatch box. But this set of six was a splatter gun aimed at maximum humiliation rather than a targeted strike which could do real damage.
Then midway through the tussle May put her foot on the ball, took a step back and cleverly reminded the House of Corbyn’s Article 50 moment: ‘Let’s remind ourselves of his position. His position was that we should have triggered Article 50 immediately after the referendum. With no work having being done for the preparations. He wouldn’t have even had a white page never mind a White Paper to base his negotiations on. And what would that have led to? They would have sold Britain out.’
She is right of course. And here lies Corbyn’s biggest problem with Brexit – he can hardly accuse May of mishandling it when he has never even come close to a clear policy for his own party. Labour is as big a shambles as the Tories.
Sensing his early momentum sliding, Corbyn puffed out his chest and went in for a rousing finale demanding: ‘Step aside!’
But sadly when he loses his cool in the Chamber he is more akin to an angry parent pitch side at an under-11 Sunday league game than a prime minister in waiting.
Verdict: 1-1 (But Corbyn missed a slew of chances)