View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
15 March 2017

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn lets Theresa May off the hook

Corbyn's hopeless response to the government's Budget U-turn proved that he's leader of the opposition in name only. 

By George Eaton

Twenty minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions, the government presented Jeremy Corbyn with a gift: the biggest Budget U-turn in recent history. Having defended the National Insurance increase only days ago, Theresa May humiliatingly abandoned it. Here appeared a target that even Corbyn could not miss. 

But to the incredulity of Labour MPs, he did. Corbyn failed to produce a single memorable line and failed to ask any of the essential questions (indeed, sometimes he didn’t ask questions at all). After correctly surmising that the government appeared to be “in a bit of chaos”, Corbyn bizarrely segued into an attack on bogus self-employment (which May has handily established a review to examine). 

The Prime Minister ruthlessly replied: “I normally stand at this despatch box and say I won’t take any lectures from the Hon. Gentleman. When it comes to lectures on chaos, he’d be the first person I turn to.” From that moment, the grimaces on the faces of Tory MPs were replaced by those of Labour MPs. Corbyn correctly asked how the government would fill the black hole left by the U-turn but overlooked far more potent questions: when did Theresa May first learn of the tax rise? Did she know it breached a Tory manifesto commitment? Did the Chancellor offer his resignation? 

By Corbyn’s third question, any pressure felt by May had entirely evaporated. To the Tories’ delight and disbelief, the Labour leader was more interested in condemning bad businesses than a bad government. Corbyn’s fourth question wasn’t one at all: “We have a government U-turn, we have no apology and a Budget that falls most heavily on those with the least broad shoulders … That is the agenda of her government and everybody knows it.” May gleefully replied: “I don’t think the Right Honourable Gentleman’s quite got the hang of this, he’s supposed to ask a question when he stands up.”

By the end, unwilling or unable to probe the biggest U-turn of May’s premiership, Corbyn had switched subjects to grammar schools. Labour MPs looked both outraged and dumbfounded by Corbyn’s masterclass in anti-opposition. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

It was left to others to show the Labour leader how it’s done. Angus Robertson assailed May’s “screeching, embarrassing U-turn” (prompting a fierce glare from the PM). Yvette Cooper, Corbyn’s former Labour leadership opponent, expertly noted: “The PM’s just done a £2bn budget U-turn in the space of a week; last year the government did a £4bn U-turn in the space of five days. Is that why they want to abolish spring Budgets? Because they just keep ripping them up?”

More perhaps than any other occasion, today’s PMQs was proof that Corbyn is leader of the opposition in name only. 

Content from our partners
Inside the UK's enduring love for chocolate
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU