Pick of the week

Best of NS in print and online.

From the magazine

1. Strictly come learning

Samira Shackle meets the new head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw.

2. Cameron has outsourced worrying about compassion. He'll regret it

Iain Duncan Smith's fretting about poverty is no replacement for an empathetic prime minister, writes Rafael Behr.

3. Don't be deceived by the myth of Mitt Romney's moderation

The former Massachusetts governor defends the interests of the rich and powerful at all costs, writes Mehdi Hasan.

4. Why aren't women funny on TV?

All-male panel show line-ups are making me lose my sense of humour, says Helen Lewis-Hasteley.

5. The NS Profile -- Claire Tomalin

The award-winning writer and former New Statesman literary editor hangs up her biographer's coat with a life of Dickens . . . and contemplates one of her own. By Sophie Elmhirst.

 

From the web

1. There was too much mystery for Downing Street to bear

Rafael Behr on Liam Fox's protracted departure.

2. Obama: Mr 99%?

Gavin Kelly says the US president needs to recognise the resentments that have sparked the 99% movement.

3. The world according to Paul Dacre

The Daily Mail editor on corrections, self-regulation and liberals who loathe the tabloids. By Steven Baxter.

4. NHS reform is a never-ending nightmare for Cameron

The Prime Minister could end up with a reputation as the man who broke the NHS, writes Rafael Behr.

5. Hitchens: "I'm not going to quit until I absolutely have to"

Writer makes first public appearance for months in Texas, notes George Eaton.

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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.