Housing is Jeremy Corbyn’s second favourite subject (after drainage lids). Back in the 1970s the grateful proletariat hailed his long years of service as Commissar For Council Accommodation in the People’s Republic of Haringey. At his retirement, chanting school-girls tied garlands of lilies around his brows and presented him with a commemorative Rent Book in a frame. Marching bands played. Fireworks fizzed and thundered. Private landlords were burned in effigy. What Corbyn learned from his housing career was to grind his enemies into submission with tedious blasts of numbers. But Cameron likes a good statistic himself and when Corbyn accused the government of building one new council house for every eight sold the PM quoted Labour’s record. One new home for every 170 sold.
Corbo then quoted an absent malcontent called Rosie. He likes to champion voters with winsome, earthy names like this. If you’re called Araminta or Chardonnay don’t bother sending your gripe to Corbo’s office. Hard-working Rosie, we heard, lives with her parents in London and is so desperate to get her own joint that she’s considering emigration. (How charming for Mum and Dad to hear that from the floor of the Commons). Cameron countered with a new tactic, quite deliberately I expect. He co-opted Rosie’s identity and began putting words into her mouth. Rosie wants this, Rosie wants that. He said ‘Rosie’ half a dozen times. Rosie wants a strong economy. Rosie wants lower tax thresholds. Rose wants a prosperous Britain where the young can purchase their homes thanks to the help-to-buy ISA. Rosie – the way Cameron told it – is such a passionate supporter of Tory policy that she might as well declare herself a leadership candidate. Effective work from the PM. Trounced Corbo could only watch and growl as Cameron snatched his mascot away and tossed it up and down, like a prefect teasing a new boy by juggling with his cap.
Backbencher of the Day was Victoria Atkins. With her dark locks combed into perfect alignment she rose in a stylish tunic of stiff white cloth. She looked like an ice-warrior from a sci-fi classic. Her diction was harsh and deliberate. Brutal almost. Her words were tinged with bitter mockery as she castigated a ‘UN panel no one has ever heard of’ for arguing that runaway rape suspect, Julian Assange, deserved a pay-off after being ‘arbitrarily detained’ in the Ecuadorian embassy. The British tax-payer should be compensated, declared the ice-warrior, for the twelve million pounds shelled out to Plod for policing the Knightsbridge penthouse of the alleged Swede-botherer. Cameron piled in happily. ‘Ridiculous,’ he said of the UN’s verdict. ‘The only person who detained himself was himself.’
Julian Lewis turned to Labour’s half-formed policy on arms. It might be ‘fun’, he noted, to delay the nuclear upgrade bill until the Labour conference in October. But statesmanship obliges the government to act now and to order a new shoal of killer-subs. Cameron did his heir-to-Blair bit. He quoted Labour’s John Hutton who believes a peace-and-love-man approach to defence will blow the party’s credibility for good. But is Hutton, or even Cameron, about to persuade Jeremy Hug-a-Manhole Corbyn? His hobby is staring into perilous voids. He probably can’t wait to see his new defence policy.