Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions was a good example of how Jeremy Corbyn’s inability to be nimble on his feet lets him down.
The Labour leader had a perfect peg for his questions about social care, which was last night’s leak of recordings in which Surrey Council leader David Hodge spoke of a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’. His first question was a good one, asking the Prime Minister to explain the difference between a ‘sweetheart deal’ and a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’. May denied that there was a special deal for Surrey, and repeated that denial in subsequent answers. But what Corbyn didn’t pick up on was the careful wording of May’s denial. She said:
‘If he’s asking if there was a special deal for Surrey that was not available to other councils, the answer is no.’
The qualification ‘that was not available to other councils’ means that there could have been a special deal for Surrey. That deal could technically have been available to other councils, but the key question is whether that deal was actually offered to any other local authority.
Corbyn did not ask this question. Instead he clearly agreed with May when she scolded him for asking repeatedly for the same denial – and he moved on to ask about the pre-briefed plans in the Budget for free schools. This was clearly a relief for May as it was about ideological differences rather than secret deals.