Wednesday, 5 July 2017

PMQs Review: 5th July 2017 - The If the Cap Fits Edition

True believers in Chauncey, in addition to considering him infallible - one woman claimed last week that he was incapable of disappointing her, although perhaps she was talking about his new status as a sex symbol - now consider his path to Downing Street inevitable. Perhaps they haven't really been paying attention to British and world politics this last couple of years. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is set in stone. We may even have already passed peak Chauncey. It's hard to see how he can go anywhere but down from here. If he was ever unfortunate enough to win an election that would seal his doom. The disappointment of his legion of admirers could be seen and heard from space. That's the space in the sky, not the one between Diane Abbott's ears obviously.

Labour got away with things during the election campaign as the Tories complacency and rank amateurishness delivered unto Chauncey his stunning result. Although, brace yourself, he did not actually win. Still that woman probably wasn't disappointed.

Clearly this means that Labour has to make the most of things while they can. And so deselection of Labour MPs who refuse to toe the line will begin as soon as possible. Starting with those who disobeyed the dear leader last week and voted against the party line on Europe. To be fair it is hard to discern what the party line is. But that rather misses the point. Chauncey doesn't want anyone knowing that there isn't a party line for fear of them discovering that he is facing both ways. Are you sure that you're not disappointed yet madam?

Tories meanwhile are arguing amongst themselves on any number of issues and not always just Europe now either. Some of them seem to think they should start paying public sector employees more and are briefing accordingly. The Chancellor has asked, hardly unreasonably, where the money is going to come from.  Times are hard after all. Money is scarce. It is so scarce that ministers still cannot afford briefcases to carry their documents into Downing Street meaning they are caught accidentally, no really, by those keen lensed snappers. Times are so hard indeed that even jokes are having to be recycled about Arlene Foster - the most expensive right winger since Cristiano Ronaldo. That's so good a joke - well, it's not bad - that the SNP's Alison Thewlis told it and then Angela Rayner of Labour bellowed it out a week later. So you see Labour can be economical and not just with the truth. Although I have heard that John McDonnell has reached out to the Mel formerly known as B and formerly of the Spice Girls. She has blown her entire fortune apparently. McDonnell wants tips on how it was done. Never let it be said that Labour are unwilling to learn about being free and easy with cash.

We should also mention the Lib Dems. They are due to have Vince Cable as their next leader as he will be unopposed. Chauncey has also reached out to see how this was done. Well deselecting anyone who answers back will probably achieve that you would think. After the next election Labour intend to be elected unopposed from then onwards. This will have to wait though. Their million man march at the weekend didn't quite get the turnout expected. It was more like ten thousand.

Predictably Chauncey decided to go on public sector pay this week. And less predictably the PM elected not to give an inch on the subject. She made all the usual points about the need for restraint because of the spendthrift policies of Labour when in power. She might have added that Labour always causes this mess and then complains when the Tories clear it up.

Chauncey even referred to a letter from a teacher. When Tories jeered at his default back to this tactic he responded that this was a teacher. He is doing a good job. Therein lies the problem with Labour. They automatically assume that public sector workers are doing a good job. Indeed the system does so too. Later Theresa May, in response to a question from Khalid Mahmood, referred to the pay scales in the public sector that reward them for time served. No refererence to how good a job they are doing. They just get automatic pay rises. The IFS says that the public sector has done better overall than the private sector, although the latter is starting to catch up at last. But the accusation of unfairness is wilfully dishonest as is the contention that poorer students are being put off applying to university because of tuition fees and debt.

Chauncey was in his comfort zone today though. It allowed him to rant about everything that infuriates the left about Tories. It was like he was back at Glastonbury again because he played all of his greatest hits. Food banks, poverty, shortages of nurses. The Prime Minister did the same. She referred to tax cuts for the low paid, the need for discipline and hard choices. She brought up Greece which failed to control its deficit. Chauncey brought up the DUP and their billion quid, although it should be noted that this money will actually be spent on investing in Northern Ireland to a large extent and not just frittered away on spending that Labour try to label investment.

And they never consider the other side of the argument. The fairness to taxpayers who have to pay for this. The fairness to the private sector who get worse pay and conditions often than in the public sector and whose taxes pay for it. And food banks? Is this a widespread problem? Are nurses really regularly using food banks? If so why? Could it be that they just haven't been very good at managing their money? Labour never consider that.

It wasn't really a debate today as such. Both talked past one another. Chauncey never had the PM on the ropes. She hit back hard and successfully. But he was effective enough. The confidence of recent events is showing, although how effective he would be on different subjects is a matter we may never know. He never asks questions on foreign affairs despite events across the Middle East, in North Korea and in the Mediterranean.

And the PM definitely has her mojo back. She is never relaxed and fluent at PMQs, but she is across her brief and hits back effectively. She had her MPs on her side and cheering her on. They were even prompting her with replies at one point. If only she had been this confident and combative in the election campaign she might have won a small majority.

I would suggest we are now at peak Chauncey. The opinion polls show a small Labour lead at the moment, but then after the last month that was inevitable. Labour are divided on certain issues and there is still talk of a breakaway centrist party, especially if deselections of people who disagree with the dear leader start. With summer and a recess just a couple of weeks away things may settle down. And for the first time in a couple of summers we don't have a single leadership contest. Excepting Ukip of course, which we do as a matter of course.

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