“Time is running out on climate change.” So said Jeremy Corbyn, but it was impossible to avoid the thought that time is running out on him.
Here is a Leader of the Opposition who cannot see an open goal without tapping the ball gently in the wrong direction. It is hard to think of a single occasion when he has used his six questions at PMQs to place Theresa May under sustained pressure.
Time is running out on her too, but no one supposes Corbyn would do any better. The idea of him as Prime Minister appeals mainly to Conservatives who want to use that worrying prospect to frighten other Conservatives into behaving themselves.
May went for him on the Anti-Semitism issue, reminding him that 60 distinguished Labour figures have attacked him for failing to deal with it, and concluding: “You have failed the test of leadership. Apologise now!”
He instead protested with his usual display of injured innocence that neither Anti-Semitism nor any other kind of racism is tolerated in the Labour Party.
Ian Blackford, for the SNP, did an anti-racist tour which took in Donald Trump’s recent remarks, the Go Home vans deployed by the Home Office when May was Home Secretary, and “the racist columns written by the former Foreign Secretary”.
May pointed out that she has “strongly condemned the comments made by Donald Trump”, and had said at the time that the Go Home Vans were “too blunt an instrument”.
Reasonably enough, she left it to her successor to defend his allegedly racist columns.
“Scotland looks on in horror,” Blackford said. He and his colleagues should perhaps reflect that looking on in horror, though satisfying to one’s self-esteem, can displace any attempt to counter one’s opponent’s argument, and make one seem like a self-righteous hypocrite.
Sir Roger Gale (Con, North Thanet) told the Prime Minister that “history is likely to treat her captaincy rather more kindly than those who have campaigned against her”.
He may be right. Which of us knows what history will say?
Ed Vaizey (Con, Didcot and Wantage) offered more immediate recognition to the Prime Minister. If she will accelerate the decommissioning of the Harwell nuclear site, so it has room for a space cluster, he will invite her to open Theresa May Way.
George Freeman (Con, Mid Norfolk) referred to the Apollo moonshot programme, and declared with yet greater ambition: “Brexit can and must be a British moonshot moment.”