New Times,
New Thinking.

  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 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 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
  • 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 Progressive Media Investments 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.

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. 

Content from our partners
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty – with British Gas Energy Trust