Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
29 November 2017

PMQs review: Emily Thornberry torments Damian Green

Labour's shadow foreign secretary further discomforted Theresa May's deputy. 

By George Eaton

Damian Green, who is still being investigated over alleged sexual harrasment, deputised for Theresa May at today’s PMQs (the Prime Minister is in Jordan). Though Green’s appearance could be seen as a vote of confidence by May (the PM has received an interim report), Emily Thornberry was determined to exploit the First Secretary of State’s discomfort. 

Thornberry (who, as before, deputised for Jeremy Corbyn), began with a series of well-crafted jokes. With an eye to May’s appearance with Donald Trump, she quipped that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were “one Anglo-American couple we on this side will be delighted to see holding hands”. And, before anyone else could, Thornberry added that she would “of course” be waving her St George’s flag for England’s rugby team. 

Her first question to Green was ruthlessly scripted: “Is he happy to be held to the same standards in government that he required of others while he was in opposition?” A notably nervy Green replied: “I think all ministers should respect and obey the ministerial code and I think that’s a very important part of confidence in public life.” As Thornberry reassured him that she wasn’t “going there”, the First Secretary of State despondently shook his head.

The shadow foreign secretary, well-armed by that master of the political dark arts, Damian McBride, continued: “I merely wonder if he remembered the question he asked 17 years ago…’what percentage of new nurses recruited in the last 12 months are now working full-time?'” 

A hesistant Green made a banal defence of the government’s record and, as usual, condemned Labour’s record in Wales. Though Thornberry’s delivery was variable, she had several potent statistics (“More than 40 per cent of newly-recruited nurses are leaving full-time employment within their first year”), and revealed that a hospital in Green’s constituency had warned of the crisis caused by the Conservatives. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. 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 newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • 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
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

She concluded: “Only £350m to cope with the winter crisis and [the Chancellor] was able to find 11 times that amount to spend on a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Isn’t that the very definition of a government fiddling away whilst the rest of the country burns?” Though Green returned rhetorical fire by declaring that while Labour wasn’t preparing for Brexit, it was preparing for “a run on the pound”, his muted performance spoke of his political enfeeblement. 

In contrast to Thornberry, the pugnacious Labour MP John Mann, did “go there”, inviting Green to apologise to the victims of sexual harassment who the government had been “letting down”. He replied: “I absolutely agree that both this place as an institution and all the political parties need to improve complaints procedures and other aspects of the culture of politics to make sure young men or young women interested in politics are not in any way deterred from playing an active role in it.”

Though Green may yet survive, today’s performance confirmed that he will rise no higher. Thornberry, however, once again demonstrated why she could.