Prime Minister’s Questions – 20 Jan 2016 12:00 pm – at the Palace of Westminster, London
Corbyn holds his own with Cameron, but not Nigel Dodds
With excellent unemployment figures out today for the Government the Prime Minister was able to trumpet this triumph early on with a clearly pre-prepared question from Rishi Sunak. (Con MP for Richmond) allowing the PM to get on the front foot early on. An early energy that for some reason was not sustained throughout his exchange with Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn did not start well however, his, I assume it was a joke, about getting such a warm welcome drew further howls of derision from the Conservative benches with Mr Corbyn stood in silence look completely lost for a few seconds. He did however recover to ask quite a clever question about abolishing maintenance grants for students asking where was this in the Tory manifesto?
Cameron responded taking a shot at the fact Corbyn had nothing to say about the unemployment figures, but his response to the question was weak rambling about uncapping student numbers that was so far away from the original point that he seemed slightly discomforted. Corbyn, maybe sensing that, then decided to be brave and say something about jobs, pointedly suggested things were not so great among those in the steel industry who has lost their jobs. He followed up suggesting there was a pattern emerging whether grants or the earlier tax credit proposals, Cameron has form in introducing measure not in the manifesto, that in Corbyn’s view damage peoples lives.
Cameron’s strongest point in the exchange came when Corbyn resorted to his outsourcing of questions, it allowed him to contrast the more general policy with that of Mr Corbyn, even quoting Ed Balls saying that Labour did not have any answers on higher education funding. He was now able to return to his point about uncapping student numbers on much more credible and confident ground as a general policy in contrast to Labour for whom the capping would remain as a result of their ideas. Corbyn moved on to the removal of the bursary system for student nurses, another measure ‘not in his manifesto.’ Cameron claimed two out of three people wanting to train to become nurses could not do so due to the bursary system, and the change was needed to increase the numbers.
Cameron’s responses had a theme running through them, aspiration, continuing to claim his policies supported aspiration and Corbyn did not. Corbyn read out another question from a student nurse, the question itself was easy for Cameron to bat away as these so called ‘peoples’ questions usually are, but he cleverly suggested his policy was removing this ladies ‘aspiration’ to become a nurse. Cameron, after pointing out three were more nurses then when he came to power, ended the exchange with a general rant abut all sorts of Labour policies from trident to secondary picketing as usual.This works well as a final flourish when Cameron is clearly on top, today was more even and it did not work as well as a result.
Cameron’s best line came in response to Karl McCartney (Con MP for Lincoln) who asked about Trident using the Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ to describe Corbyn idea of submarines without missiles, Cameron responded by stating when it comes to Beatles tracks Corbyn prefers ‘Back in the USSR.’ While Corbyn did better in his clash with Cameron today. the man who did slay him today was Nigel Dodds (DUP MP for Belfast North) by raising the right of the Falkland Islands to remain British under all circumstances to universally glum faces on the Labour front bench as he did so. Cameron rightly took this opportunity to slam Labour on this issue, but in the exchange itself with the Opposition Leader, a better day for Corbyn. Both men had good and bad moments, a score draw.
MOON OF LIBERTY VERDICT (Out if 5)
David Cameron 3 Jeremy Corbyn 3 – Both landed some shots but no killer blow in the first PMQ’s I have not given as a Cameron win since Corbyn was elected. The real winner today was Nigel Dodds.