PMQs verdict: a draw, but Corbyn does locate a weak spot

Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament

Key points

Jeremy Corbyn concentrated most of his questions on the universal credit (UC) rollout before a noisy exchange culminated in a call for the prime minister to quit.

He quoted the Citizens Advice description of UC as a “disaster waiting to happen” and claims from the IPPR thinktank and the Child Poverty Action group, both of whom said it would result in more children in poverty. Corbyn said that even the former prime minister, John Major, had called it unfair and unforgiving. He described how “Georgina”, who had written to him, was left all summer with no money and had to rely on her family, then made a final point on the 55p per minute cost of the UC helpline. Corbyn asked May to pause the rollout of UC because it drives up debt, poverty and homelessness.

May’s responses varied little. She acknowledged problems in UC’s rollout and said they were being addressed, and twice pointed out that those in financial distress could apply for advance payments. She said the underlying justification for UC had not changed – that the Labour scheme it replaced incentivised claimants to not work and had trapped 1.4 million people in out-of-work benefits. Corbyn retorted that the last Labour government had lifted a million people out of poverty.

Corbyn finished by listing a string of failures from “a government in chaos” and said the Conservatives were “more interested in fighting among themselves” than solving these problems. “If a prime minister can’t lead,” he asked, “shouldn’t she leave?”

This raised the temperature somewhat. May, having listed achievements from her government’s record, brought up Shelter’s criticism of Labour housing policy from the party’s conference, where she also referred to the antisemitism row.

Verdict

More often than not these days PMQs feels like a draw, and today was no exception. Corbyn chose a topic on which the government is exceptionally vulnerable, and his questions were good and emotive, but he never asked anything specific enough to unsettle May, and she did a reasonably competent job of brushing it all aside with a broad-brush defence of welfare reform … although this did prompt one of the best retorts from Corbyn. Not for the first time, he was effective in defending the record of the last Labour government. Both leaders saved their TV soundbites until the end, and at this point Corbyn threw in a rather casual call for May to stand down. If the leader of the opposition is saying the PM should resign, you would normally expect them to make a bigger deal of this. May responded with a pre-cooked but better than usual generalised broadside about the Labour conference.

Memorable lines

Isn’t it the case that if the prime minister can’t lead she should leave?

Corbyn calls for May to resign.

And all that before the shadow chancellor admitted a Labour government would cause a run on the pound.

May rounds up the highlights from Labour conference.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 11th October 2017 13.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010