With another chaotic week for the cabinet unravelling, this should have been like taking candy from a baby for Jeremy Corbyn – but once again he flattered to deceive.
Don’t get me wrong, he has certainly had worse outings at the dispatch box. In fact he didn’t do at all badly. But against stronger opposition Theresa May would get a hiding each and every week.
That said, this was a strong start: ‘I’m sorry to see the foreign secretary is not here with us today …’ Cries of ‘where’s Boris?’ rang out across the Labour benches.
Corbyn then went on to outline how Johnson takes a very different view to business than the business secretary – ‘using an Anglo Saxon phrase to make his point’ – before asking: ‘What is the prime minister’s view?’
May’s response came straight from the file marked ‘what to say if Labour start talking about business’: ‘This party and this government has always been a party that has backed business and will continue to back business. And we back business because it is business that creates millions of jobs … that creates billions in tax we can spend on our public services … businesses that are the backbone of our prosperity. He has a decision to make – he can either back business or want to overthrow capitalism he can’t do both.’
Nice pay off.
And the Labour leader hit back with a nice jibe as well: ‘I take the prime minister’s response as a thumbs down to the foreign secretary.’
He added: ‘Airbus supports 110,000 jobs in the UK’s supply chain. The company says no deal would force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country. Can the PM reassure thousands of workers and take the phony threat of no deal off the negotiating table?’
May responded: ‘If he is so concerned about our aerospace and aviation industry why did he not back the expansion of Heathrow?’ Touche.
Corbyn: ‘The foreign secretary didn’t back it either …’ Good work – double touche.
The pair then veered off into a back and forth about the customs union before Corbyn accused Jacob Rees-Mogg of moving his hedge fund into the eurozone because of his own financial concerns about Brexit. The minister for the 18th century firmly shook his head.
The PM said: ‘We are putting jobs at the heart of what we do in Brexit … The right honourable gentleman throughout his career has been rather a Brexiteer himself … why is it then that he and the Labour party are trying to frustrate Brexit in this House?’ A good point by the prime minister – Corbyn has been forced to take Brexit to PMQs of late but his previous euroscepticism leaves him weak.
Corbyn continued: ‘She rules out a customs union, the leader of the house rules out the PM’s preferred option and reality rules out a maximum facilitation model. That only rules out a no deal option … The prime minister continues to promote the fallacy that no deal is better than a bad deal but isn’t the truth that real jobs risk to jobs in our country is a PM that is having to negotiate around the clock with her cabinet to stop it falling apart rather than negotiating to defend jobs of workers ion this country.’
That gained this very limp response from May: ‘I will tell the right honourable gentleman what i and this government are delivering … [insert one of her lists outlining how great the Tories are here … yawn].’
Corbyn and Labour should be making mincemeat of this tired, warring government. This week he scrambled a messy, narrow victory.
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