When one considers how Jeremy Corbyn has been mocked and reviled this week, even by many on his own side, for his absurdly slow reshuffle, one has to say he didn’t do too badly today. He got through PMQs by sticking with grim determination to the floods.
“There are always lessons to be learned.” Corbyn began by reminding the House that David Cameron had deployed this cliché two years ago in response to some floods, and asked: “Were they?”
For a moment or two, Cameron stuck to the question raised. It remains his view that when floods occur, there are always lessons to be learned.
But the Prime Minister thought it would be a dreadful waste to spend the whole of PMQs learning those lessons. There were other more amusing things to talk about.
Soon Cameron was observing that it would be useless to expect Corbyn to respond rapidly to the floods “when it takes him three days to run a reshuffle”.
Corbyn mentioned his visit to Chris and Victoria, whose home had been flooded. When the Tories made derisive noises, he gave them one of his hard stares and added: “It wasn’t very funny for them.”
Cameron continued to strike low blows. He remarked that “frankly we don’t need a lecture from Malta”: a reference to Corbyn’s recent holiday on that island.
The Prime Minister also said that when Corbyn has “worked out how to co-ordinate his own party”, he can come and talk about how to co-ordinate the response to the floods.
Once Corbyn had sat down, Cameron took the chance to fling the titles of some Shakespeare plays at him, including Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, and Love’s Labour’s Lost.
One couldn’t help reflecting that Shakespeare would have been far wittier at Corbyn’s expense, while also bringing out the poignancy of that ridiculous figure’s predicament.
If Cameron had treated Corbyn with a degree of sympathy, or just with studious politeness, it is possible that the effect would have been more wounding. For how does one make fun of a Leader of the Opposition who has already turned himself into a laughing stock?