Theresa May has never sounded quite so condescending, and at the same time smiled so much, at the Dispatch Box. It is a manner which suits her, for it suggests she feels increasingly at ease with her great responsibilities, and that the men who want to throw her off her stride are somehow trivial and ridiculous.
She treated Jeremy Corbyn with genial condescension. He received her “congratulations on winning the Labour leadership election”.
Corbyn retorted that “over 300,000 people” voted for him, “which is rather more than voted for her”. But it was evident from the Prime Minister’s demeanour that those 300,000 voters have given her enormous pleasure: a feeling plainly shared by her backbenchers.
Corbyn asked about Brexit. He was right to do so. If the Leader of the Opposition ducked that question, he would look entirely irrelevant.
But May was able to reply, with a slightly more steely condescension, that he has asked the question before, and it is the Government which will deliver what the British people have shown in the referendum that they want.
Angus Robertson, for the Scottish Nationalists, tried to impute racism to her. She gave a straight answer: there is “absolutely no place in our society” for racism and MPs should be able to say that “with one voice”.
Robertson tried to raise the stakes by referring to the vans telling illegal immigrants to go home which at an one point during her home secretaryship appeared on the streets.
The Prime Minister now told him “very gently” – a nicely condescending touch, as if Robertson could not stand a sterner rebuke – that he should have listened to the answer she had already given.
At the end of PMQs, Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, accused her of siding “with the protectionists and the nationalists who have taken over her party”.
This elicited the wagging of a prime ministerial finger as she informed him that “we’re siding with the British people” and it was “high time” he listened to them too.
In her first encounters with Corbyn, May displayed an exaggerated desire to score off him. This more relaxed manner is an improvement. She rises above the playground antics of her opponents. Her contentions are more grown-up than their jibes. If she carries on like this, they are going to find it very hard to score off her.