PMQs verdict: Headmistress May sees off schoolboy Corbyn

PUBLISHED: 15:17 13 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:17 13 June 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London
Photo: PA

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Before the SNP took their bat and ball home there was another school yard spat in the House of Commons.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

But first both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn made strong statements and said all the right things a year on from the devastating fire that killed 72 people and ruined many more lives in Grenfell Tower.

Then it was on to Brexit, a subject that Corbyn has had some joy with in recent weeks. Let’s not forget that he has missed more open goals than Diana Ross on Brexit already though.

After making the prime minister look rather daft on ever-changing dates and the promised Brexit white paper last week, Corbyn aimed to cause more damage: “Last week the PM confirmed we would leave the EU in march 2019 and the transition would end in 2020. But we now know the government is working is on the basis that transition could continue for a further year until Dec 2021. Could she be clearer today?”

May wearily got to her feet – as if Corbyn and PMQs was the last of her problems (There is a some truth in that assessment). Across the dispatch box the prime minister looked upon Corbyn as an irritant as much as a dangerous opponent.

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London
Photo: PAPrime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London Photo: PA

With a sigh and the sharp tone of an annoyed school teacher she said: “I think what he is trying to talk about its the backstop arrangement. This is an arrangement that would be put in place in the case of it not being possible to put a new customs arrangement in place by January 1, 2021 and it is there to ensure that we are able to continue on the basis that there is no hard border in Ireland. We don’t want the backstop to be necessary. We are working to have the new arrangements in place by the Jan 1 2021.”

But smug little Jeremy wasn’t willing to do what he was told and leapt at the chance to play class clown with a gag: “I am not really sure if it is a back stop or a back slide she is talking about.” Problem with gags is they need to be funny.

He continued: “When is the government’s Brexit white paper going to be published? She did say it would be published before June EU summit. Is that still the case?”

Now she was getting really vexed: “I did not actually say that. We will be bringing minister together after the June summit and the white paper will be published thereafter.”

But Corbyn just wouldn’t leave it be: “It gets ever-more confusing. If the government does not have its detailed proposals ready for the June summit surely the prime minister can’t be going to Brussels without anything to negotiate on. Is she going to seek a delay to that summit while the government decides what its position actually is?”

The rage was obvious as May threw her head back in mock laughter. Clearly some of this anger had been building for a few days, Corbyn was by no means the main reason for her short fuse.

“Perhaps I could help the right honourable gentlemen ... the June summit is not about the Brexit negotiations. There will be many issues the EU leaders will be discussing including the important issues of sanctions on Russia.”

Then she went full-on headmistress. May tilted her head, wagged her finger and added: “If he wants to talk about differences of opinion ... I’ll tell him what division really is ... division is members of the Labour Party circulating instructions manuals on how to deselect all the Labour MPs sat behind him.“

Then Corbyn cracked: “You have just to face the fact there may now be a meltdown?” What did that even mean?

He tried to dust himself off and start again: “The cabinet is divided and they are briefing against each other ... and the PM has been left with no white paper on which to negotiate ... and yesterday a deal with her backbenchers was reneged on in hours ...” Why Corbyn waited until his last question to bring is anyone’s guess. May’s Brexit mess should have been front and centre from the off.

He finished with something of a flourish but to nothing like the heights of the last two weeks: “How much more damage is the prime minister going to do to this country before she realises the most important thing is getting a deal for the people of this country not one to appease the giant egos of her cabinet?”

Nice line – but it was too little and much too late for the Labour leader.

Headmistress May took to her feet, grasped her cane and lurched toward the poor lad: “I’ve heard that the right honourable gentleman has been trying to organise a music festival, Labour Live ... Do you know who the headline act is? The headline act at Labour Live are the shadow chancellor and The Magic Numbers – that just about sums them up.”


VERDICT: May 2 Corbyn 0

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