Katy Balls

May fried over public sector pay at PMQs

May fried over public sector pay at PMQs
Text settings

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May spent their lunchtime talking about McDonalds. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, it was McStrike, rather than a lunchtime order, that dominated her first PMQs since the summer recess.

Asked to show support for those workers currently taking industrial action against the fast food giant, May would only say that it was a matter for McDonalds – before going on to attack Labour for not doing more to tackle zero hour contracts when they were in government. This felt evasive and allowed Corbyn to go on and pit her against the side of the workers when he asked about the government's diluted plans to crackdown on corporate excess.

Although Corbyn asked several topical questions effectively, his problem was that he asked too many. The mix of topics – from abandoned pledges to public sector pay - meant that he was not able to press May particularly hard on any and land a killer blow. On the issue of public sector pay, May looked the the most vulnerable. Asked about a pay rise for nurses, May spoke clumsily about the need for a strong economy before finding money for 'this, that and the other'. Which one out of 'this, that and the other' nurses are is unclear. Overall her response about Labour spending money they don't have was passable. However, Corbyn only had to refer to the £1bn DUP deal to show that the Tories can find money for some things.

Where May can take heart from today's session is the loud support she got from the Tory benches - a sign that the party is united behind May ('at the moment'). There was even a hint that a truce could be on the cards between the Remain wing of the party and No 10 over the government's EU Withdrawal Bill. When Anna Soubry asked Theresa May whether she would heed ‘those amendments that seek to change the EU (Withdrawal) Bill so it doesn't become an unnecessary and unprecedented government power grab’, May said the government would ‘listen very carefully’ on the matter.