A small child brought in to watch PMQs fell asleep in the gallery. Jeremy Corbyn complained that “empty shops suck the whole life out of our high streets”, but might have added that he is sucking the life out of this weekly opportunity to hold the Prime Minister to account.
He began well enough, by asking whether the collapse of Northamptonshire Council was caused by “Conservative incompetence at local level” or “Conservative incompetence at national level”.
How one longed for the Prime Minister to take the wind out of his sails by replying, “Both!”
But she insisted instead that “Conservative councils cost you less”. Nobody saw fit, only 28 years after the poll tax precipitated the downfall of Margaret Thatcher, to remark that we need a new system of local government finance, in which councillors are given responsibility for local tax.
Corbyn instead veered off into asking whether it is “really right to prioritise tax cuts for the super-rich”. Again, one longed for May to confound him by replying “Yes, we raise far more revenue from the super-rich by imposing rates which don’t drive them out of the country”.
But May did not get where she is today by being provocative. She sought instead to reduce the temperature on fishing rights, a subject avoided by Corbyn, and also on Cambridge Analytica, likewise avoided by Corbyn, but taken up by Ian Blackford, for the SNP, who claimed various connections between that firm and the Conservatives.
The Prime Minister is starting to dominate these sessions, rather as she dominated Home Office questions when she ran that department. This is good for her, but bad for the Commons.
Tom Pursglove (Con, Corby), is a devout Eurosceptic, but instead asked her about coffee cups, in particular about “a fully recyclable alternative cup” which is made by a firm in his constituency, “and perhaps if she’s around afterwards I may be able to give one to her”.
That came out wrong, and produced the loudest laugh of the session, for the Prime Minister is not called Mae West.