‘I ask him for the sixth time,’ will be the quote that finally silences the critics of Jeremy Corbyn’s PMQs performances. Because this week, Corbyn temporarily abandoned the process of asking a different question each time, instead choosing to focus on the serious issue of the cuts to tax credits. And he may have asked six times, but he certainly wasn’t answered six times.
As the Prime Minister attempted to make the issue seem like a constitutional crisis surrounding the powers of the House of Lords, Corbyn brought him back to reality. This is not a crisis concerning the process of politics, or a crisis concerning parliamentary privilege. Instead this is, quite simply, a crisis for millions of hard-working families up and down this country who could be set to lose thousands of pounds in April 2016.
Corbyn was wise to use all of his six questions on the topic of tax credits, Paxman-style. Let’s not forget that just last week, the Prime Minister said he was ‘delighted’ that the cuts were voted through by the House of Commons.
Even when Corbyn posed a question from a constituent named Karen, concerning the way in which she will be potentially severely affected by the tax credit cuts as a low earner, the Prime Minister could not give a straight answer. But this is unsurprising: as one SNP member pointed out later on in the proceedings, the reason David Cameron chose not to include this policy in his manifesto - and the reason he promised before the election not to do it - is because he knows if he had done, he would not have been elected. Pushing working families into poverty even goes against the most right wing Tory rhetoric about those mythical “benefit scroungers”.
Corbyn asked the Prime Minister to guarantee that no child would be worse off next year as a result of his tax credit policy. The Tory response was the same as always: this was about “transforming the UK economy”, that squirming Tory platitude used currently as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Corbyn asked him again, and the Prime Minister said his proposals would be made clear in the Autumn Statement. And so it goes on, and on, and on.
The truth is, the Prime Minister doesn’t have a response for those hard-working people who look set to lose out – many of whom may have voted Conservative at the last election. This government has demonstrated what it is all about now, and it can’t hide behind the “we’re for working people” line any longer: it is about cutting corporation tax for the wealthiest businesses, cutting inheritance tax for the 500 wealthiest families, celebrating the obscenely rich 1 per cent and cementing the position of the wealthy.
The Tories won the last election on a tide of support for work, rather than welfare. But it is this government that could hit working people harder than any government since Thatcher’s. The government today abandoned their line that eight in ten families will be better off and has instead moved to make this a debate about the wider economy. But this fell foul in the face of Corbyn’s sensibly pitched grassroots mentality.
Again, the Tories failed to accept that there is a human element to this change. These names that they see on their Excel spreadsheets in the Treasury office are not plucked from thin air. They are real people, with real jobs, real children, real dreams and real aspirations.
Today, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Tory party has abandoned such people. In his place, Jeremy Corbyn continues to lead the campaign for the Labour party to once again become the party of decent, hard-working people. As Tory support for the rich grows and the Prime Minister moves ever further right, perhaps those critical of Corbyn’s perceived radicalness will welcome the balance he realistically provides.
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