Lloyd Evans

Why didn’t David Lammy give Corbyn a helping hand at PMQs?

Why didn't David Lammy give Corbyn a helping hand at PMQs?
Text settings

The royal nativity opened proceedings at PMQs. Mrs May sounded thrilled about the newborn nipper but the Labour leader could barely conceal his ill-temper. Mr Corbyn slouched at the despatch box and forced a muttered tribute to ‘their baby’ out of the side of his mouth. He sounded like a man who’s just twisted his knee laying flowers on his mother-in-law’s grave.

But why the aversion to Supermum Kate’s non-stop sproggery? A wise Marxist ought to welcome a population explosion at the palace. The more numerous and parasitical the royals, the swifter and bloodier their overthrow.

Mr Corbyn led on the Windrush crisis and accused Mrs May of creating ‘a hostile environment’ that stoked discrimination against Caribbean workers. She chose to distinguish between Windrush immigrants (‘they are British, they are part of us’) and the illegal incomers targeted by her as Home Secretary. It’s down to documentation, she shrugged. The Windrushers deserved it but didn’t have it. The illegals didn’t deserve it and didn’t have it either. Hey-ho. A mix up in the filing system.

This wasn’t a brilliant argument but Mr Corbyn failed to produce any evidence to pull it apart. (It was there all along, but he didn’t know it at the time). Mrs May quoted Yvette Cooper who, in 2013, had called for ‘much stronger action from government to bring illegal immigration down.’

This sparked a furious counter-attack from Ms Cooper. She got to her feet and awoke the drowsier members of the Commons with a bombshell. She hadn’t planned to mention immigration but Mrs May’s disingenuous use of her remarks had provoked her to respond. Her delivery was thunderous.

‘Do not try to hide,’ she stormed at the prime minister. ‘Do not try to hide behind me! Do not try to hide behind the Labour party!’

She said it three times, knowing how well the simple parade-ground thump-thump-thump can work.

‘Do not try to hide behind … ’

She was halted by the Speaker, a noted expert in rhetorical sabotage, who stood up and called for quiet, and then sat down again. Quite needlessly.

Ms Cooper resumed her attack but its impetus had been destroyed by Mr Bercow. Once again, he did the hecklers’ work by silencing an orator on their behalf.

A revealing question from David Lammy ended the session. He cited a constituent named Anthony who arrived here in 1956, aged four, and was denied citizenship in 2011. He hasn’t been able to work for the last seven years. And, according to Mr Lammy, he fears phoning the official Windrush hotline in case it brings a deportation squad to his door. An amazing case. And a cast-iron example of Home Office ineptitude making life hell for a blameless citizen. Worse still, the key decision was made while Mrs May was in charge of the Home Office. But an even stranger scandal surrounds Mr Lammy’s refusal to send this colossally embarrassing case to the Labour leader. He prefers to sulk in his tent rather than to give his commander-in-chief the weapons he needs to win at PMQs.

It’s a sorry but familiar story. The left hate each other even more than they hate the Tories.