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11 March 2020

Three things we learned from today’s PMQs

Labour is still determined to exploit Boris Johnson’s woman problem.  

By Patrick Maguire

Labour is still determined to exploit Boris Johnson’s woman problem

One might have expected Jeremy Corbyn to devote all six of his questions to the coronavirus outbreak today – but the Labour leader did no such thing. Instead, he devoted all of his questions to the government’s policies on women – today’s session coming as it did three days after International Women’s Day. 

Welfare reform, domestic violence, and falling life expectancy for women all featured in Corbyn’s line of questioning. If there is a weak link in the new Conservative coalition, Labour believes it is the party’s female voters. 

As the epidemic gets bigger, so does the government’s fiscal headache

For the second consecutive week, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford – as well as Plaid Cymru’s Hwyel Williams and Labour’s Zarah Sultana – attacked the government over the question of financial support for those infected with coronavirus, particularly the self-employed. 

As much as Johnson attempted to stonewall the Treasury, the department will need to find an answer – and the money – as the government’s response formally moves from contain to delay in the coming days. 

That, more than any decision on tax and spend, is likely to be the most significant decision made in this afternoon’s Budget. 

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Ministers know what they want the Budget headlines to be

“Levelling up”, unsurprisingly, were the watchwords that punctuated almost every Conservative contribution on the Budget. Would the Prime Minister commit to levelling-up infrastructure in Stoke-on-Trent? Would the levelling-up agenda ensure more green infrastructure popped up in Devon?

Correcting regional inequalities is the story the government wants this Budget to tell. Coronavirus means it may not be so lucky.