PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn paints the Tories as the anti-business party

The Labour leader turned Boris Johnson’s words – “fuck business” – against the Conservatives.

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As so often at recent PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn gratefully accepted the gift provided to him to by Boris Johnson. The Foreign Secretary, Corbyn noted, had used an “Anglo Saxon term” to “make his point” (“fuck business”) – did the Prime Minister agree?

Theresa May replied that the Labour leader “can either back business or he can want to overthrow capitalism – he can’t do both”. But when pressed by Corbyn to rule out a “no-deal Brexit” (which would be an epic act of economic self-harm), the Prime Minister refused to do so. Though, as the EU knows, the government has no intention of leaving without an agreement, May’s recalcitrant MPs mean she is unable to state this truth.

The PM later chided Corbyn for refusing to support Heathrow expansion (unlike, she noted, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey). But Johnson again provided the Labour leader with ample ammunition: “The Foreign Secretary didn’t back it either. But in his own way he was helping the aviation industry by spending 14 hours in a plane for a ten minute meeting in Afghanistan.”

Though many Tories will mock any suggestion that Corbyn can defend business, plenty of voters disagree. The guffaws from the Conservative benches as the Labour leader read out a letter from a Honda worked painted a typically vulgar picture. A no-deal Brexit, Corbyn emphasised, was “a bad deal”. As long as the Tories refuse to accept this reality, their relationship with business will remain fraught.

Corbyn, who has led on Brexit at five of the last six PMQs, was rebuked by Vince Cable for his absence at the pro-EU march last Saturday. To cries of anger from the Labour benches, Cable remarked that Corbyn was “in the Middle East avoiding the Labour supporters there” (Corbyn was visiting a Syrian refugee camp). One is left with the irony that those who once attacked Corbyn as a “protest leader” are now attacking him for refusing to lead a protest.

George Eaton is senior online editor of the New Statesman.

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