Prime ministers questions

Theresa May looks back in anger at her final PMQs

Theresa May’s final Prime Minister’s Questions had all the tributes you’d expect for an outgoing leader. Members from across the House praised her commitment to public service and the way in which she has made tackling mental illness, modern slavery and domestic abuse her priority throughout her time in government. She received a standing ovation from her party at the end, with the Liberal Democrats and the DUP joining in from the opposition benches. A few female Labour MPs clapped too. Her final remarks made a dignified end to a premiership beset by failure and procrastination. She told MPs that the Commons was ‘rightly at the centre’ of ‘extraordinary times’

Can politicians learn the toughest lessons of the Grenfell fire?

Jeremy Corbyn chose to focus his questions to the Prime Minister today on the government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire. It was the second anniversary last week of that fire, and campaigners have accused the government of not keeping its promises to the survivors of that disaster. The Labour leader asked about the slow progress in removing the same cladding from other buildings that was on the Grenfell Tower, and then moved on to a recommendation made years before the fire that tower blocks should have sprinklers fitted. That recommendation followed the fire at Lakanal House in 2009 in which six people died. The coroner at that inquest had

Isabel Hardman

PMQs showed the damage the leadership debate is causing to the Tory party

Last night’s Tory leadership debate was an illustration of where the wider party has ended up: fractious, confused, and without a clear plan for what to do next. Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions showed the damage that these blue-on-blue attacks are doing to the Conservative party. A number of the candidates have criticised the policies of their own government particularly when it comes to spending. It was inevitable that this was going to get picked up by the Opposition as an attack line. Labour’s Paul Williams pointed out that Sajid Javid had pledged to reverse Theresa May’s police cuts, while other MPs either made bids for the spending review or warned

May confirms she’ll stay on as an MP at dull PMQs session

A fair few MPs felt there was no reason to come to today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, given the real action is in the Conservative leadership contest. There were spaces behind Theresa May as she took questions from Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader clearly hadn’t put much effort into preparing for the session, either, offering a bizarre hotchpotch of questions ranging from no-deal Brexit to the government’s record on renewables. Those Tories who had turned up weren’t interested in asking May tricky questions: what was the point, when she has just weeks left as Prime Minister? Instead, they wanted to praise what existed of her record, with Peter Bone praising her

Pointless PMQs shows up the government’s powerlessness

Most MPs’ minds are elsewhere at the moment, with the local elections on Thursday and the European elections looming at the end of the month. Many of them were physically elsewhere at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, which took place in a sparsely-populated Chamber with little atmosphere. A low rumble of bored chattering accompanied Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s exchanges, which lacked the usual political fire and fury of sessions held right before a poll. Neither of them really bothered to engage in exchanges, instead reeling off poorly-planned lines about social mobility, life expectancy and social care. The Prime Minister produced one of the worst jokes of her premiership when she

Corbyn gives May an easy ride at Prime Minister’s Questions

Jeremy Corbyn decided to re-release his greatest hits at Prime Minister’s Questions today, starting with Brexit but then moving on to poverty, education, police cuts and ‘burning i justices’. We’ve heard these questions many times before, and often in the same sequence, but today the Labour leader was using them once again to try to underline that Theresa May’s government is failing not just on Brexit but on everything else too. This didn’t work, though, because Corbyn only tried to tie the topics together in his very last question, and that question was particularly rambling. Last night the Labour leader’s spokesman delivered a crisp line about the government being unable

Tory MPs keep up pressure on government over refuge funding plans

One of the better questions at today’s PMQs came from Tory MP Chris Green, who asked about the government’s proposed funding model for refuges. Green was among the Conservatives who last week raised concerns about the plan for local authorities to pay grants to refuges rather than individual places being paid for by a woman’s housing benefit, and he did so again today, asking Theresa May the following: ‘Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the work of Fortalice, which has provided domestic abuse support in Bolton for 40 years? Will she consider under the current reforms the benefits of a new funding structure for domestic abuse refuges

Emily Thornberry outshines Damian Green – and Corbyn – at PMQs

Mrs May couldn’t make PMQs today. She was lunching with royalty up at the Palace. The happy atmosphere of the event may have been affected by territorial anxieties. The Queen’s principal guest, King Felipe VI, reigns over important parts of the Spanish mainland but not the pointy little bit down at the bottom which is full of pubs and red phone boxes. MPs were keen to ask the government to re-assert Britain’s possession of Gibraltar. And some believe that this claim should extend to other historically British regions: Malaga, Torremolinos and Ibiza. Mrs May’s place was taken by the recently elevated Damian Green. His personality is like his skull. Smooth,

Isabel Hardman

Emily Thornberry succeeds where Corbyn fails at PMQs

Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions could have been memorable purely for the novelty of Emily Thornberry deploying a tremendous amount of sass in her questions to Damian Green as the pair stood in for Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. But it was also memorable because as well as leaning across the despatch box and delivering one-liners in comedy voices, the Shadow Foreign Secretary also asked some good, searching questions about the government’s position on Brexit, particularly on what would happen practically if there was no deal. Unlike Corbyn, who has always struggled to ask questions on Brexit at this session because of his own ambivalence about the matter, Thornberry is quick

Theresa May is slowly steadying the Tory ship

It was better from Theresa May today. She was combative, prickly and forceful at PMQs. The ship is moving on a steadier course. And two toxic enemies have returned to the fold. In the days following the election, both Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan were ‘helpfully’ suggesting a possible timetable for Mrs May’s departure. Today they both asked supportive questions. And Mrs May read out the answers, tight-lipped. Only those within a yard of her could hear her molars grinding. The Labour leader got a rather glum cheer from his party. He suggested that the PM should fund a pay-rise for nurses because ‘she seems to have found a billion

Jeremy Corbyn looks lost at the despatch box

Tactics! At long last. Jeremy Corbyn actually used tactics at today’s PMQs. For the first time ever he divided his six questions into two three-ball overs. He spent the initial trio on last week’s terror attacks. Then, after an unsettling delay, he used three more on Mrs May’s fibs about school budgets. She says they’ve been ‘protected’. He says they’ve been ‘cut’. Protected. Cut. Cut. Protected. On it went. Mr Corbyn had a superb ally in the Public Accounts Committee which seems to support his view. The exchange might have been tricky for Mrs May but Mr Corbyn still can’t ram home a simple advantage. Rather than forcing her to

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’,

Watch: Theresa May’s embarrassment after PMQs grandad gaffe

Poor old Theresa May. The Prime Minister did her best to try and share some good feeling with those on the opposite benches by congratulating Jeremy Corbyn on the birth of his grandchild. Although it seemed like a rare moment of kindness at PMQs, there was a problem: Corbyn isn’t a granddad. Instead, it was Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North , who did have some happy news last week when his wife gave birth to a baby which the brave MP even helped to deliver. Still, Mr S is pleased to report that the PM did eventually manage to regain her composure and turn her gaffe into a jibe

Watch: Theresa May’s risqué PMQs joke about Mrs Bone

Theresa May’s track record of telling jokes in the Commons isn’t good. Last month at Prime Minister’s Questions, her wise cracks went down badly and she was criticised by a Labour MP for telling ‘silly jokes when asked serious questions’. At today’s PMQs, she was at it again – and Mr S is pleased to report she had much more luck in making her fellow MPs laugh. Backbencher Peter Bone has long been a thorn in the side of Tory leaders. But ever since the Brexit vote, he’s been somewhat more upbeat about life. And on his birthday today, he had an extra reason to be happy. Yet despite his

Jeremy Corbyn changes tactics at PMQs – but he still lacks any killer instinct

Corbs is back. And he’s getting his act together. He showed up at PMQs looking estate-agent smart. White shirt, natty blue suit, a red tie mounting, nearly, to its correct position at the throat. His second landslide victory has suffused him with calmness and authority. As he boasted to Mrs May, his position as leader was confirmed by 300,000 members of his party. ‘More than her,’ he needled. The Labour leader is changing his tactics. He’s ditched his habit of using PMQs to pass on gripes from a mysterious Customer Complaints Desk at Labour HQ. This politically suspicious and psychologically whiney ploy was never likely to prosper. It painted Corbyn

Theresa May’s stilted second PMQs performance

If the purpose of the first few Prime Minister’s Questions sessions that a new leader faces is to assert their authority, both over the Opposition and their new party, then Theresa May managed that today. She didn’t do it with a great deal of panache, though: the Prime Minister was much less fluent and confident today than she was in her all-conquering first stint at the Dispatch Box before the summer. Her scripted jokes sounded a little less comfortable and natural, too. But she managed to give good responses to Jeremy Corbyn’s rambling questions, particularly this little lecture about the differences between the two of them: ‘I say to the

PMQs sketch: Theresa May’s hard head and soft heart is terrifying for Labour

What we know for sure about our secretive new PM is that she uses her clothes as a bush-telegraph. What did the tom-toms tell us? Mrs May was done up like an Evesham house-wife going to dinner with her husband’s boss in about 1950. Neat hair. Navy blue jacket. White top underneath. A rope of fake pearls and just a hint of neck. Across the shires the faithful will have cheered this display of Brief Encounter elegance. She was good at the despatch box, nervous certainly, sometimes stumbling over her words. But she produced a forceful impression of competence and compassion. Hard head. Soft heart. She has ‘grip’ as they

Corbyn fails to give Cameron a helping hand at final PMQs before referendum

The last PMQS before the EU referendum will not live long in the memory, the Commons did not rise to the occasion. David Cameron was determined to try and keep his broad Remain coalition together. But Jeremy Corbyn was less than helpful to Cameron. Corbyn said that Labour would oppose any post-Brexit austerity Budget, rather undermining George Osborne and Alistair Darling’s message. Then, he said that the problems fishermen in this country are experiencing is not down to the Common Fisheries Policy but decisions taken by the Cameron government. Cameron, though, received more help from the SNP’s Angus Robertson who asked Cameron to spell out just how this austerity Budget

Autumn Statement Tricks: Osborne confounds the betting market

Ignore the numbers, the spin and the bleak borrowing – there is only one question that needs answering. What colour is the Chancellor’s tie? Ladbrokes were offering bets on the subject, and Mr S understands a significant amount of cash has changed hands on the subject: 1/2 Blue 3/1 Purple 4/1 Green 10/1 Red 12/1 Pink 12/1 Grey 16/1 Yellow 16/1 Orange 16/1 Black 25/1 White 66/1 Hi-vis Ever the trickster, Osborne seems to have confounded the punters. Is his tie sludge green, grey or black? It seems like the matter should be referred to some sort of independent Office of Budget Betting Responsibility. Ladbrokes are yet to call it…

PMQs: Harman and Hague drop the questions and give a joint speech to save the Union

PMQs was an odd affair today, and not just because there was no PM. It was more that William Hague and Harriet Harman, left in charge while their respective leaders try to save the Union, didn’t really do a question time at all. Their entire exchange was one speech pleading with the Scots to stay, stitched together. What questions Harman did ask were merely rhetorical ‘doesn’t-he-agree’ sorts, rather than an attempt to extract information from the Leader of the House. It was a very positive joint speech about the benefits of the United Kingdom and the success of the Union. But we learned nothing – which was the point, really,