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Jeremy Corbyn ended not with a bang but a whimper. So anti-climactic was the end of his speech that it was impossible to know whether he had finished.

He sat down, but it seemed possible that he was at last giving way to one of the Conservatives, and would in due course resume his remarks.

Mark Francois (Con, Rayleigh and Wickford) rose on a point of order and asked: “Is that it?”

The Speaker, John Bercow, indicated that to rule on this question would be to exceed his powers.

One could see from the Labour benches that they wished never to see or hear from Mr Corbyn again. One beholds a legion of the damned, who know they are being led over a cliff, and have no idea how to stop.

Even the Gadarene swine, it has been said, thought the going was good for the first half of the way. But most of these Labour MPs never for one moment thought Mr Corbyn was leading them in the right direction, and his performances at the Dispatch Box have only confirmed them in that view.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May took a mercilessly efficient relish in pointing out that almost all the Labour MPs who asked questions have disowned Mr Corbyn.

Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) closed his eyes as if in prayer. It must sometimes occur to him that if Labour is to be led by a Bennite, his late father, Tony Benn, would have played the role with a thousand times more flair than this poor, dim-witted acolyte will ever display.

A Labour woman MP wore a look of blank despair and took refuge in her mobile phone. Most of the Labour women decided from the start of PMQs that electronic life was preferable to watching Mr Corbyn’s death throes.

But Yvette Cooper (Lab, Pontefract and Castleford) showed a glimpse of the star quality which was so sadly elusive when she stood against Mr Corbyn for the leadership.

She contested Mrs May’s claim that Parliament is making Brexit difficult: three-quarters of the Commons and two-thirds of the Lords had voted for it, “so that’s not true, is it?”

Sounding like a stern, old-fashioned, morally irreproachable school teacher, she concluded: “We can’t believe a single word she says.”

Labour cheered for a moment. But mostly, the Tories cheered. They raised an unusually hearty cheer as Mrs May entered the Chamber, went on cheering her at regular intervals, asked a number of shamelessly sycophantic questions, and just for variety, gave Mr Corbyn an occasional ironical cheer, far louder than anything provided by his own side.

Angus Robertson, for the Scots Nats, always sounds more solid than Mr Corbyn, and today sought to embarrass the Prime Minister by asking her if she regards her opponents as “saboteurs”, a word used in the headline on the front of this morning’s Daily Mail.

Mrs May said a free press is “important”. Mr Robertson wanted to know “why she’s running scared of a televised debate with Nicola Sturgeon?”

Tim Farron, for the Lib Dems, posed the same question: “What is she scared of?”

The Prime Minister asked, rather in the manner of one of the riddles which come out of a Christmas cracker, what Mr Corbyn, Mrs Sturgeon and Mr Farron have in common, and went on: “They want to unite together to divide our country and we will not let them do it.”

That was as dismal a response as one usually gets out of a cracker. For it did seem to imply that all opposition is inherently disloyal.

If one were to receive a pound for every time the Prime Minister mentions the words “strong and stable leadership”, or some variant of them, one would be a millionaire by the end of the general election.

This Führerprinzip sounds a bit alien to British ears, especially as Mr Corbyn puts up so little resistance to it. Our political tradition relies on leadership which however authoritative it may appear, is actually weak and unstable.

For despite the intrusion of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a general election can be held at any time. Mrs May shows every sign of fighting this election at the top of her form, and with complete professionalism.

Today she walked all over Mr Corbyn. It was not an edifying spectacle, but it was convincing in its way. And how many election campaigns can one remember which were edifying?

77 comments for: Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: May walks all over Corbyn on her way to the election

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