Today’s PMQs appeared surreally sealed off from the outside world. The two subjects that are dominating conversation at Westminster – the John Worboys ruling and Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism – went almost unmentioned (save for questions from Zac Goldsmith and Peter Bottomley).
But Jeremy Corbyn, to his credit, led on an important and frequently overlooked issue: mental health services. He cited the sobering statistic that “male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 – with 84 men taking their lives every week”, and noted that while children and young people represent 20 per cent of the population, just six per cent of the mental health budget is spent on them.
Though Theresa May pointed to the government introducing “parity of esteem” between physical and mental health, she had no adequate answer to Corbyn’s charge that “the money never followed”. There were, the Labour leader noted, 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than before the Conservatives entered power and spending fell by £250m from 2010-15.
May referenced the anti-Semitism scandal by implication when she complained of the “bullying and harassment” young people endure on social media, but did not develop this into a wider attack on Corbyn.
The SNP, meanwhile, interrogated May over the allegations that Vote Leave broke electoral law. May retorted that the Electoral Commission had twice before investigated claims of overspending (finding in Leave’s favour). But unlike Boris Johnson, she did not dismiss the allegations as “utterly ludicrous”. “If there are allegations of criminal activity that should be taken to the police,” May said even as her tone suggested she believes no wrongdoing occured.