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15 June 2016

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t pull his punches against David Cameron

Despite the EU referendum, the Labour leader attacked both the PM and the Tory Brexiters. 

By George Eaton

There is only one subject in British politics at the moment. But for Jeremy Corbyn at today’s PMQs there were many. The Labour leader’s dizzying tour took in Leveson II, the NHS, modern slavery, immigration and fisheries. There were derisory cheers when he finaly declared, ahead of final question, that his party was in favour of remaining in the EU.

Corbyn opened by challenging Cameron to meet phone-hacking victims and to pledge to pursue the second stage of the Leveson inquiry. The PM repeated his past promise to make a decision “once the criminal investigations and prosecutions were out of the way”. After Corbyn damned the Brexiters for “cosying up to Rupert Murdoch” (following the Sun’s Leave endorsement), Cameron quipped: “Right now people can accuse me of many things but cosying up to Rupert Murdoch isn’t one of them.”

The Labour leader then took aim at Michael Gove and Boris Johnson for “masquerading as the saviours of the NHS” (describing them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing”) but couldn’t resist also attacking Cameron’s stewardship of the heatlh service. Given the number of Labour voters backing Leave to punish the PM, Cameron might have hoped that Corbyn would pull his punches today. But he didn’t in his final question either, declaring that Labour “would oppose any post-Brexit austerity Budget”, rather than warning of the risks his party’s supporters would face (as the SNP’s Angus Robertson later did). 

Corbyn did, however, reserve his greatest firepower for the 57 Tory MPs who have rejected George Osborne’s warning, referring acidly to their “Damascene conversion to the anti-austerity movement”. Indeed, if they oppose Osborne’s path, the Brexiters would have to embrace ultra-Keynesianism. Cameron avoided personal attacks on his own side, but warned: “There’s only one thing worse than addressing a crisis with an emergency Budget and that is ignoring it”. Throughout the session, he previewed what will be Remain’s closing pitch. “It’s not worth the risk, let’s keep our country safe.” As I wrote earlier, “Project Fear” is still Remain’s best hope. If it fails on 23 June, we may just have witnessed Cameron’s final PMQs. 

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