PMQs Review: The one in which Jeremy Corbyn was J.J. Abrams

PUBLISHED: 13:30 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:04 15 January 2020

Boris Johnson appearing before prime minister's questions in the House of Commons (Pic: Parliament)

Boris Johnson appearing before prime minister's questions in the House of Commons (Pic: Parliament)

Parliament

Like the Star Wars director, the Labour leader is happy to ignore previous events and play to the fanboys

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Jeremy Corbyn is channelling J.J. Abrams. Bear with me on this. But the inescapable conclusion to draw from today's bromidic PMQs is that the Labour leader has been studying the Star Wars director's playbook.

Abrams made The Force Awakens. And it was better than most hoped - if rated against the universally-derided prequels - and the fanboys were happy. Then Rian Johnson was brought in to make The Last Jedi, and it was dark and complicated and it annoyed the fanboys who said nasty things on the internet. So Abrams came back for The Rise of Skywalker, which pretended that the previous film never happened, played the greatest hits for two-and-a-half hours and made the fanboys happy again.

Corbyn fought the 2017 general election. And it was better than most hoped - if rated against the universally-derided Theresa May - and the fanboys were happy. Then he fought the 2019 election, and it was less successful and made his cheerleaders on Twitter sad. So now Corbyn has pretended it never happened and is playing the greatest hits once more, week in, week out.

(This analogy admittedly doesn't fully work with the Rian Johnson bit).

But it's the only conclusion to draw from another weird PMQs in which Corbyn appears to neither know nor care he's just lost a general election in a landslide. Like last week, when he went on the legality of the US' Qasem Soleimani, or his New Year message, when he said 2019 had been "quite the year" for Labour without nodding to the fact it had just suffered its worst defeat in 84 years.

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What is he doing? Why is he still there? He said the party needed a "period of reflection", but that's over now and they've decided it was all Laura Kuennsberg's fault. So why not let the leadership contenders have a week each rather than let Boris Johnson off the hook?

Abrams brought back the - spoiler alert - Ewoks. Corbyn this week relived another old hit - the manifesto - redolent of Glastonbury, when he waved it on stage before telling Michael Eavis he'd be in government in six months and immediately get rid of Trident.

"I don't know if the prime minister had a chance to read the Labour manifesto in the last election, but we made it very clear," he said.

"We have a plan, a very clear one and it is free personal care, it is more funding and it is support for carers, and I'm very happy to send him another copy of our manifesto so he can read it."

Johnson responded: "I'm delighted that he's still fighting on the manifesto which he submitted to the British people at the last election. I think it was pretty clear what they thought of it, what they thought of the credibility of the promises that he made." Open goal.

Elsewhere in a sea of soft questions from Tory backbenchers too insipid to detail here, the most significant question came from Douglas Chapman, the SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, who asked about the UK's withdrawal from the Erasmus scheme.

"I'm afraid that the honourable gentleman is talking through the back of his neck," said Johnson. "There is no threat to the Erasmus scheme, we will continue to participate."

It is entirely possible that, in the not-too-distant future, the PM will deny making this statement, delivered in the House of Commons, broadcast on national TV and recorded for posterity in Hansard. Hopefully by then there will be a leader of the opposition up to holding him to account. C-3PO?

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