James Forsyth

Ditching the triple-lock pensions bung is a risk May can afford

Ditching the triple-lock pensions bung is a risk May can afford
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PMQs went on for an almost an hour today as John Bercow attempted to get in as many valedictories from retiring MPs as possible. But there were two significant pieces of news made in today’s session. First, in answer to Angus Robertson, Theresa May refused to say that the triple lock would continue if the Tories win this election. This is the clearest indication we have had yet that it won’t be in the manifesto and will, sensibly, be jettisoned after the next election. The Tories are 20-odd points clear and have an even bigger lead among the over 65s, jettisoning this expensive electoral bung is a risk that May can afford to take. 

The second piece of news was Theresa May not repeating the line that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ with the EU. Peter Lilley had, in his final question in the House, urged May to restate that she was prepared to walk away from the negotiating table and that no deal was better than a bad deal. But May conspicuously refused to do so. In part, this is because the government has cooled on this idea since May’s Lancaster House speech. But I also expect that it has something to do with the Tory desire to say that a vote for Labour will result in a ‘chaotic Brexit’. It is harder to make that charge stick if you are threatening to walk away from the negotiations and leave without a deal.

The May Corbyn exchanges were, as always, not particularly enlightening. Corbyn just about kept his head above water against a confident May who kept telling voters to vote for me in a very presidential performance. But Corbyn’s decision to ask every question on a different topic meant that he never built up any pressure on Theresa May.

Corbyn, though, can take consolation from the fact that Tim Farron fared even worse. Just before Farron was called, Eric Pickles pointed out to the House that David Ward had been selected as a Liberal Democrat candidate despite his questionable record on anti-Semitism. This meant that when Farron asked May about ‘decent opposition’, she could simply dismiss him by pointing to Ward’s selection and asking how that was compatible with decency. One suspects that the unfortunate timing for Farron might have been a result of the Liberal Democrats breaking convention and standing against the Speaker in his Buckingham constituency.