PMQs: The Leader of the Opposition gave the performance of his life

There’s no clear plan for Brexit, the government is on the ropes, and it showed

  • @tompeck
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Indy Politics

Two months off and a complete transformation from the Leader of the Opposition. The Government’s in a mess. There’s no clear plan for Brexit. He knows it. The Prime Minister knows it and in he went.

“This Government has had all summer to come up with a plan, to come up with a strategy, and so far we‘ve just had waffle,” he boomed.

“Does she want the UK to remain fully within the single market? Yes or no.”

Theresa May had no answer. “The right deal...a new relationship...seizing opportunities...we are respecting the views of the British people.”

It wasn’t good enough and the Leader of the Opposition knew it. “I asked the Prime Minister a very simple question, and there’s a very simple answer, so let me ask it again. Does she want the United Kingdom to fully remain a part of the European single market. Yes or no?”

You won’t be surprised to learn he didn’t get a one word answer. “The right honourable gentleman doesn’t seem to quite understand what the vote on the 23rd June was about. The United Kingdom will leave the European Union. It would not be right for me or this Government to give a running commentary on negotiations. We will seize the opportunities for growth and prosperity.”

That a serving Prime Minister should deploy the “running commentary” defence at the despatch box, the standardised last resort of the professional question-dodger, is a low point on a scale not seen since Gordon Brown’s old claim to have “only been in the job three days”. (Indeed he had, but he’d had his eye on it 10 years.)

It was a towering performance. So much so that you almost didn’t notice that the Leader of the Opposition had de-aged by about two decades, developed a broad Scottish accent and was standing in entirely the wrong place.

The only other incident of note to report is that yet again proceedings were undermined by a grey bearded protestor, understood to be the long lost brother of the late Brian Haw, who again had not been prevented from wandering into the chamber and reading out a pre-prepared list of tedious questions, this time on housing.

He did so to the usual backdrop of utter silence. The banks of Labour MPs behind him scarcely bothered to look up from their iPads. They’ve tried to do something about but it’s not worked. They’ve given up.

Theresa May was particularly cruel to him. Something about “rolling stock / laughing stock” got a bit of a laugh. I didn’t really get it. Still, you can’t help but feel it shouldn’t be her job to put Jeremy Corbyn out of his misery.

Oh, and it turns out that the Leader of the Opposition might not be all he's cracked up to be. He is determined to break up the United Kingdom, forcing immense economic damage on his own people for the sake of petty nationalism. Still, it's 2016 so he'll go far, will Angus Robertson.