The entirety of British politics since the EU referendum campaign began was symbolised in today’s bout of PMQs. Theresa May’s studied banality, Jeremy Corbyn’s missed opportunities, and the SNP triumphantly filling the vacuum.
Today’s weekly round of questioning fell on the same day as Article 50 being triggered. A historic move by our government, notifying the European Union that the UK will be departing after more than 40 years of membership. A decision that lobs Britain’s future into the unknown – the country’s history, culture, economic stability, and price of a pint of milk, teetering on a cliff-edge.
BBC Parliament screengrab
Yet Jeremy Corbyn decided not to ask Theresa May about her plan for Britain’s exit. Yes, he will get a chance to give his view to the Commons following the Prime Minister’s imminent statement on Brexit. Yes, the subjects Corbyn chose to bring up – real-terms cuts in police spending, and the daft hacking away at schools budgets – are worthy.
But PMQs is a chance for opposition parties to very publicly hammer the Prime Minister on policy failings of the day. To have the first word and put her on the spot, to put her in an uncomfortable political position, in a way that is more difficult to do in a response to a Commons statement. And the PM should be given as few free passes as possible on this subject.
This was a chance for the Labour leader to at least create the façade of opposition to the hard Tory Brexit that most progressive voters in this country are desperate for our politicians to counter, and to which Labour is ostensibly opposed.
Instead, it was – as ever – left to the SNP to attack the Prime Minister on Brexit. The party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, was the first MP in PMQs to challenge May on her lack of a Brexit plan. Not a good look for Corbyn.
Even if he will respond to May’s Commons statement, he missed the opportunity to unpick the deplorably political and reckless approach the PM is taking to Brexit via the first-word direct questioning afforded by PMQs. Yet more proof that Labour has never been wholly serious about holding the government to account on Britain’s post-EU future, preferring the comfort of passively watching the mess unfold.