Pmqs sketch

PMQs: Rishi whirs like a supercomputer

‘Hold your nerve.’ Rishi’s ill-judged advice to voters last Sunday was perhaps his worst blunder yet. At PMQs it came up half a dozen times. Sir Keir Starmer made the first attempt but he was too verbose to inflict real damage. ‘Rather than lecturing others on holding their nerve why not locate his?’ He exposed Rishi’s confused housing policy and asked if any credible expert believes that the government will reach its house-building target this year. Rishi wriggled deftly and chucked out a few helpful statistics. ‘More homes are meeting our “decent homes” standard, the housing supply is up 10 per cent… and first-time buyers are at a 20-year high.’

PMQs proved that we have too many politicians

PMQs drove up a cul-de-sac today. Sir Keir’s team of researchers have discovered a crime blackspot where ten houses have been burgled in the last 18 months, but only one of these offences has ended up in court. This delighted Sir Keir as it gave him a chance to remind the world that he once worked as a prosecutor. Even better, the benighted cul-de-sac happens to be in Yorkshire where Rishi Sunak’s constituency is located. Crime dominated the session because Sir Keir brought up Baroness Casey’s end-of-term report on the London police force. The cops have fluffed it, according to the baroness, and their ranks are now overflowing with sexists,

No fanfare, no cheers, and a thin turnout at PMQs

A thin turnout for Theresa May’s penultimate PMQs. Labour members were skulking in corridors plotting to oust their leader. And Tories, especially devout Remainers, were busy talking to journalists about their lifelong commitment to a no-deal Brexit. Mrs May seemed to be angling for the post of chief attack dog at the next election. Jeremy Corbyn asked her about climate change but she raised Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis. ‘You have failed the test of leadership,’ she said, bending the rules by addressing him directly. ‘Stand up and apologise.’ Breaches of protocol always add extra juice to Commons rows. Corbyn retorted that Labour was the first party to pass anti-racism legislation in

PMQs is broken and only Brexiteers know how to fix it

PMQs is clearly broken and only Brexiteers know how to fix it. Theresa May should leave. Jeremy Corbyn should remain and put questions to Boris next week and to Jeremy Hunt the week after. A test of both candidates in match conditions would be welcomed by all. But it won’t happen. A Tory party that can’t extract us from the EU has no hope of giving PMQs the tweak it needs. Today we had another snooze-in with Tory backbenchers falling over each other to congratulate May on her exemplary record and visionary leadership. She’s the worst PM since Eden and they all pretended she was Pericles. Andrea Leadsom praised her

PMQs: May and Corbyn sound like a sketch about a deaf shopkeeper

Tories who still support Theresa May are as rare as bumblebees in Antarctica. Her backbenchers were too polite to mention her imminent departure at PMQs but her opponents couldn’t resist poking fun. The PM began with her ritual announcement about ‘meeting ministerial colleagues and others’. Up stood John Woodcock. ‘She may not have long left, and good luck with those “meetings later today”’. Mike Amesbury said his question about lease-holders would interest her, ‘now that she’s about to move house.’ Toby Perkins asked her to increase SEN funding ‘in her final days.’ Jeremy Corbyn led on school budgets too. They’re down, he claimed. As he always does. No, no, they’re

I’m lonely but the Loneliness Minister won’t take my calls

I blame Bercow. The Speaker has introduced a strange new custom to the Commons. He likes to point out his guests in the public gallery and to encourage MPs to join him in saluting them. Now everyone’s at it. Before today’s session Jeremy Corbyn had bagged himself an imam from a north London mosque and installed him in the upstairs pews. He duly greeted the cleric as ‘my friend’ and got his name right at the second attempt. Today the NHS was on Mr Corbyn’s mind. Mrs May’s austerity U-turn, and her transformation into Lady Bountiful, has converted Mr Corbyn into a raving Thatcherite. He fumed about new NHS funding.

PMQs Sketch: Policy pay, child poverty, and Brexit

The news was bad at PMQs today. Gosh, it was terrible. Layla Moran started by announcing that Brexit would jeopardise thousands of jobs in Abingdon and wreck the local economy. Theresa May told her to stop spooking the voters with imaginary pessimism. ‘It’s what they’re telling me!’ shouted Ms Moran. Daniel Zeichner said the scourge of Brexit had now reached Cambridge. Migrants are fleeing in droves. University kitchens are without staff. Pubs are closing for lack of barmaids. Awful isn’t it? No hot dinners for dons. No tankards of goodly ale foaming in the city’s taverns. Mrs May urged him to ask businesses to train new staff. Mr Corbyn joined

PMQs sketch: In which Jeremy Corbyn rebrands the plan to make Britain ‘an offshore tax haven’

Mr Corbyn has spent a week shuddering at goblins that don’t exist. At least outside his head. But he wants his posse of demons to exist in our heads too. So he keeps conjuring them up. He says Mrs May is about to turn Britain into ‘an offshore tax haven.’ Being a Puritan he hasn’t noticed that this has an attractive, Hefner-ish feel. It suggests white sands and azure waves, the tinkling of steel-drums, and bottles of Red Stripe being served at ten cents a time by pouting lovelies straining out of their bra-cups. To be fair, Corbyn’s team of wordsmiths have spotted the problem. So the boss has been

PMQs sketch: Confident Corbyn tries to cook up a Christmas crisis

Corbyn’s improvement continues. He thumped away at a single issue today – social care – in a determined attempt to corner Teresa May and stick the word ‘crisis’ on her jacket, like a brooch. A crisis for the elderly, he said. A crisis for families. A crisis for the NHS. ‘A crisis made in Downing Street.’ His delivery still havers and wavers a lot but the drum-machine technique, banging out identical noises in a hypnotic rhythm, was effective. She met his assault with verbal trinkets composed by back-room smart Alecs in Westminster: the future Osbornes and Camerons. Rejecting the word ‘crisis’ she called it ‘short-term pressure’. She also mentioned ‘sustainability’,

PMQs Sketch: Striking attitudes in the Chamber

Sometimes PMQs is about policy. Sometimes it’s about posturing. Today everyone was striking attitudes like mad. Jeremy Corbyn over-stated the levels of suffering in the country. He painted a picture of workhouse Britain where ‘four million children’ live ‘in poverty’. He means ‘relative poverty’, an elastic term, which covers every child in the land, including those of David Cameron who are ‘poor’ relative to the children of Bill Gates. God-squad veteran, Chris Bryant, argued that the state shouldn’t just improve our lives but our deaths as well. He took us back to a funeral he once conducted during an adolescent phase when he thought he was a vicar. ‘Everyone was

PMQs Sketch: Flabby Corbyn flounders with potent weapons

Early bloopers at PMQs. The session began with Theresa May offering Jeremy Corbyn her congratulations on becoming a grandfather. A mistake. The tribute was due elsewhere. But the improvised hilarities that accompanied this blunder burned up several minutes. Corbyn chose to attack on welfare. Over the last week Labour’s sound-bite factory has supplied their leader with some decent phrases. ‘Institutional barbarity’ is their name for giving a timetable to welfare claimants. Changes to invalidity payments are called ‘imposing poverty on the most vulnerable.’ But flabby Corbyn floundered with these potent weapons and failed to deploy them effectively. A bit like his tie. The sleek crimson knot was threaded correctly but

PMQs Sketch: Why Jeremy Corbyn is a lousy politician

Today it became clear why Corbyn is a lousy politician. He’s too interesting. The variety of life is simply too fascinating for him to prosper on the public stage. In a word, he’s not dull enough to be a statesman. A key attribute of leadership is the readiness to bore oneself, and everyone else, by repeating the same phrase over and over again. Successful politicians are happy to recite their favourite soundbites day in day out knowing that only at the thousandth repetition will the vital syllables grind their way into the public consciousness. Mr Corbyn has a great soundbite — shambolic Tory Brexit — which he needs to reiterate

PMQs Sketch: Theresa May torpedoes Jeremy Corbyn in six syllables

Today we saw government without opposition. At least without opposition in the hands of the Opposition leader. Rambling, disorganised Jeremy Corbyn spent his six questions getting nowhere over the health service. Familiar catcalls were heard on both sides. ‘You wasted billions.’ ‘No we invested billions.’ Mrs May attempted to break the record-book by insisted that ‘half a trillion’ will be spent on health during this parliament. Corbyn’s backbenchers took up the cause. The Labour party is teeming with broken princes and queens-across-the-water who spend their time brooding, and muttering, and plotting their route back to power. Any chance to expose Corbyn as a waffling nuisance is happily seized. Lisa Nandy

PMQs sketch: A final farewell to Dodgy Dave

Nice send off for Cameron at PMQs. Both leaders acquitted themselves well. Cameron was wry, witty and self-deprecating. He claimed to have ‘addressed’ a total of 5500 questions during his premiership. ‘How many I’ve answered I’ll leave to others.’ Corbs got it spot on too and showed us a relaxed, funny, generous side. He asked Cameron to thank his mum for her tip that he should smarten up and wear a suit. ‘He’s taken the advice. He’s looking absolutely splendid,’ beamed Cameron. It was only a throwaway remark but it produced a Richter-scale eruption of mirth. And Corbs offered his heartfelt thanks to Cameron for pushing through the law that

PMQ’s sketch: two plank-walkers at the helm of the ship

Rare to see a plank-walker at the helm of the ship. Today there were two. Cameron has accepted the inevitable and his demeanour at the despatch box was relaxed, amused, peaceable. Buoyant at times. Even foes like Bernard Jenkin exchanged warm words with him. And he handled Corbyn with extreme mildness until a rush of blood seized him at the end. ‘For heaven’s sake, man, go!’ he lashed out. But go where? Jezza’s impersonation of Rasputin is his best performance yet. He’s indestructible. Last weekend he was hacked to pieces by a flash-mob of tooled-up colleagues. He then suffered a thundering defeat in a no-confidence vote which merely boosted his confidence

PMQs sketch: What a strange farewell

What a strange farewell. The slickest, sparkiest and most brutal street-fighter the Tory party has produced in a generation found himself agreeing with his worst enemies today. ‘That says something,’ shouted David Cameron (who remains prime minister for the next week or so). ‘We have huge disagreements,’ he explained. And yet despite the fault-lines his Remain campaign enjoys the support of nearly the entire opposition: the Greens, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Northern Ireland parties and Cameron’s bete noire, the SNP. ‘When we all agree,’ he finger-wagged, ‘that really says something.’ Absolutely. It says they’re all deluded. Does poor Cam know he’s finished? At times he seemed to sense it.

PMQs Sketch: Cameron was both the fibber and the whistle-blower

Is Corbo working for the Tories? The Labour leader was such a pushover today that Cameron turned what should have been a televised monstering into a party political broadcast on behalf of left-wing Conservatism. Corbyn raised tax-avoidance, the minimum wage, and short-term contracts — three of Cameron’s strongest issues. The PM boasted that prosecutions of minimum wage defaulters have leaped fifteen-fold since 2010. On tax evasion, he trilled, ‘I made it the centrepiece of my G8’. And on short-term contracts he reminded the droopy-shouldered Mr Corbyn that exclusivity clauses had been outlawed under the Coalition. Is Corbyn seriously trying to ambush the PM with arguments that were settled a parliament-and-a-half ago?

PMQs Sketch: Osborne managed to fight off Labour’s pocket Boadicea

The only MP who doesn’t want Angela Eagle to be the next Jeremy Corbyn is Jeremy Corbyn. He was away today — thank Gawd! — leaving Eagle to take on George Osborne who replaced the PM. Eagle is quality. Her low stature, her kindly, nunnish face and her merry eyes give her a huge advantage in debate because she appears to be without defences. What weapon could this sweet-natured tinky-winky milkmaid possibly wield? A roll of grease paper? A warm scone? A rubber duck? When she strikes, as she does, the blow arrives invisibly. She has a slangy northern tongue that can easily make an Oxbridge toff look like a

PMQs Sketch: Next stop, extremist Labour

Cameron hi-jacked today’s PMQs with a show of calculated brutality masked as high dudgeon. Feeble, whey-haired Corbyn obeyed the commands of his unwanted passenger and meekly drove him wherever he wished to go. Cameron’s destination was ‘extremist Labour’. Corbyn strives constantly to outdo himself in uselessness and today’s rambling, ill-structured assault was typical. Early on Cameron inverted the terms of the session and invited Corbyn to clarify his attitude to Hamas and Hezbollah. Years ago Corbyn had referred to Hamas as ‘friends’ at a seminar in parliament . Corbyn declined to re-express himself. Cameron repeated the demand and reminded us that the Hamas handbook calls for Jews to be killed

PMQs Sketch: The high horse comes out cantering

PMQs kicked off with a big fuss about improvements to our world-beating education system. To academise or not to academise? Corbo wants to let good-or-outstanding schools be good-or-outstanding. Cameron says good-or-outstanding schools can become even more good-or-outstanding. Both leaders prefer to ignore Ofsted’s lower grades, ‘inadequate’, and ‘requires improvement’. Rightly so. No one else recognises these cold and impersonal classifications. The average citizen uses a system based on the sight of a uniformed teenager on the street. ‘Safe to ignore’, ‘pass with caution’, ‘armed and feral’ or ‘requires imprisonment’. Today’s exchanges were marked by moral panic and an outbreak of high-horse fever. Cameron started it with a premeditated dig at