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Jeremy Corbyn asked all the right questions at PMQs – and got none of the right answers

Are we witnessing the birth of Corbyn 2.0? 

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Wednesday 09 May 2018 15:01 BST
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Theresa May admits that 'questions have been raised' over her Customs Union options laid out in Mansion House speech

It has been widely speculated that last week’s underwhelming local election results might just have convinced Team Corbyn of the truth of a basic fact of political life. That they cannot possibly hope to form a government without taking sizeable numbers of votes from people that previously voted Conservative. And that these voters live to their political right, not their left.

Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday only added to the mounting evidence that we might just be witnessing the birth of Corbyn 2.0, an upgrade which more closely resembles a basic, old fashioned, functioning leader of the opposition.

It is a cause for great celebration, and it has required from Corbyn a significant amount of bravery.

Theresa May is currently in the middle of what might add up to be her greatest mess thus far on Brexit. Her foreign secretary is calling her own customs policy “crazy” on the front page of the Daily Mail. The Lords have defeated her EU Withdrawal Bill fourteen separate times.

But Labour is in just as big a mess, not least as on Tuesday night, the last and biggest Lords rebellion of all, the one that effectively aims to keep the UK in the single market, required fully 87 Labour peers to rebel against their party leadership.

In such circumstances, it was widely anticipated that Corbyn and May would revert to usual and ignore the elephant not so much in the room as having hunkered down on their throats, and shout statistics at one another about the various failures of the NHS.

But that didn’t happen. Corbyn asked all the right questions, most of them short and to the point. There was nothing that could fairly be described as not so much a question as a rant for the purposes of a viral social media clip, which has become his standard tactic of the last year or so.

Instead, he simply asked, “Is the prime minister’s customs partnership crazy?”

And the house looked on as the prime minister’s lips moved, sound came out, but anything that might be described as the high ground opened up and swallowed her whole.

“We are leaving the single market, we are leaving the customs union, nothing has changed Lancaster House speech mumble grimace Florence I’ll tell him what’s crazy I’ll tell him what’s crazy!”

With speaker John Bercow absent, attending the funeral of previous speaker Michael Martin, Corbyn was allowed to move through his questions without any needless and verbose interruptions from deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle.

The foreign secretary, who would have been sacked long ago by any functioning government, shook his head throughout, a course of action that should in theory have brought him into eye contact with his cabinet colleagues, but all wisely stared straight ahead.

“How can they negotiate the best deals for Britain,” Corbyn asked, “when they’re only interested in their own futures?”

Boris Johnson’s countenance did not shift, but it did turn a touch more crimson. It is a question to which Theresa May knows she has no answer. She is in highly inconvenient thrall to a political psychopath.

At one point, Corbyn called the cabinet “divided on Brexit”, prompting furious howls from the opposition benches, aware that, well, he’s just as bad as they are. But he’s heard these howls a thousand times before, he’ll hear them again, and as an Olympic hockey commentator once said, quite frankly, who cares?

And to add to it all, we were all done in 35 minutes, without so much as a single “chuntering from a sedentary position” or other woeful Bercowism degrading the parliamentary record.

More of the same next week please.

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