Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
2 March 2016

PMQs review: David Cameron’s Varoufakis jibe throws Jeremy Corbyn off course

The Labour leader had no riposte to the PM's predictable "Acropolis Now" line. 

By George Eaton

After George Osborne yesterday mocked Labour’s recruitment of Yanis Varoufakis and Paul Mason (“Chairman Mao was dead and Mickey Mouse was busy”), it should have been obvious to Jeremy Corbyn that David Cameron would have his own fun today. But when the moment inevitably came (“He is the Greek finance minister who left the economy in ruins … It’s Acropolis Now”), the Labour leader had no riposte or witty retort. “That is not much help to the 41,000 children who are benefiting from what they promised by the government” he flatly replied. “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” tweeted Labour MP and Corbyn critic Tom Blenkinsop. After that moment, Cameron was in control.

Corbyn had begun well, asking a series of detailed questions on the government’s delayed childcare promises. But Cameron never looked truly troubled, deploying his own barrage of statistics and emphasising that all policies depended on a “strong economy” (something that voters do not trust Corbyn to deliver).

The Labour leader later moved on to school overcrowding and agency teachers, warning rather clunkily of the rise of “Agency Britain”. Cameron replied that “a record 96.6 per cent of teachers now have a degree or higher qualification”.

None of the backbench questions unsettled the PM. After Bernard Jenkin was called but failed to show, his fellow eurosceptic David Davis stood in. “I’m glad we’ve got the single transferable question, if not the single transferable vote,” Cameron drolly replied. Davis’s question – on the number of National Insurance numbers issued to EU citizens – was too technical to have impact in the chamber. Inside the Commons at least, the anti-EU Tories are still playing nice. Labour’s Barry Sheerman urged Cameron to emulate Harold Wilson, the centenary of whose birth is next week, by standing up to the rebels. But it is Wilson, of course, who Cameron has already drawn inspiration from – by conceding a referendum and by suspending collective responsibility. That was a reminder that the real battle presently lies within the main parties, rather than between them.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy