Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read posts from today, on Obama, Northern Ireland and the economy

1. Obama liquidates himself

Paul Krugman argues that Barack Obama's plan to announce a three-year spending freeze is a betrayal of everything his supporters thought they were working for.

2. UK has highest GDP per capita rise in G7 since 1997

Left Foot Forward's Will Straw points out that Britain's GDP is still in a healthy state relative to 1997, but notes that critics are calling for an end to "unsustainable" growth.

3. David Cameron will face tricky questions over the Orange Order

Nicholas Watt blogs at the Guardian on the Tory leader's decision to align himself with one party and one community in Northern Ireland, setting off alarm bells beyond the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

4. The Church Taliban get their way again

Over at Liberal Conspiracy, Bob Piper attacks the House of Lords' "Christian Taliban" for blocking measures to prevent faith groups discriminating against gay men and lesbians.

5. Jonathan Powell and "Chinese whispers" on Iraq

Paul Waugh on the latest evidence from the Chilcot inquiry.


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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.