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Wed Oct 28, 2015, 04:53 PM

PMQs verdict: Corbyn just hammered Cameron

Last edited Wed Oct 28, 2015, 05:52 PM - Edit history (1)

"I'm fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster, the name calling, backbiting, point scoring, finger pointing."

So said David Cameron when he won the Tory leadership back in 2005.

It didn't take long for him to surrender that ambitious hostage to fortune - partly because of the adversarial structure of the House of Commons, and partly because of his own temperament, which is naturally closer to Flashman than Gandhi.

Among his many weaknesses is his patrician temper, as has been widely catalogued by the press from both left and right, and over the years has caused concern among his own advisers.

And so we come to today's Prime Minister's Questions, on the strength of which Politics.co.uk's Ian Dunt has awarded Jeremy Corbyn the ears and tail for sheer doggedness:

This was the PMQs defeat Jeremy Corbyn had been threatening to deliver to the prime minister since he became Labour leader. He found the right question to ask David Cameron, ignored his evasive tactics and hammered him with it, Paxman-style, over and over again. He took a subject which damaged his opponent and used the opportunities offered by PMQs to make it much worse for him. It was sturdy, convincing stuff.

The prime minister is not, at bottom, a very good debater. This is partly why he was so desperate to escape leaders' debates at the election. He really only has three tactics in response to difficult queries.

Usually, he answers a question on process with a statement on goals. If you ask how he is going to protect those who are having their tax credits cut, he answers by saying we need a high-pay, low-welfare economy. It is irrelevant, but it sounds like the kind of thing almost everyone would agree with.

Alternatively, he lists related government policies. You ask how he is going to protect those who are having their tax credits cut and he answers by citing changes to the income tax benchmark or rising employment figures. It is broadly relevant, but it does not answer the question.

Finally, when he's desperate, he falls back on the standard 'Labour will wreck the economy' line. So if you ask how he is going to protect those who are having tax credits cut, he just says you're a "deficit denier". It is irrelevant, childish and logically pernicious.


It's worth looking out for these habitual tactics of Cameron's in future.

As Dunt observes, this sort of spectacle - and the awarding of "wins", reducing our ambitions for party politics to a mere tribal spectator sport in an archaic and very expensive setting - may not shift polls or win elections or change the destructive trajectory of a hubristic government and the kneejerk reactions of the evasive PR man in charge, but if a Punch and Judy show's all that's on offer, we may as well all join in on the "That's the way to do it!"

ETA: Video of the exchange here: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/28/jeremy-corbyn-six-tax-credit-questions-david-cameron-straight-bat

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