PMQs Review: Corbyn Scores Open Goal

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Good performance: Corbyn used tax credits controversy very effectively
Good performance: Corbyn used tax credits controversy very effectively

Following the heartwarming and very fitting tributes to recently deceased MP Michael Meacher, Corbyn and Cameron engaged in a fiercely contested interchange over tax credits, the hotbed issue which drew all six questions from the Labour leader this week.

Pushing for a projection on the impact of the proposed changes to families come April, Corbyn frustratingly found the Prime Minister in inspired defensive form, his deluge of catchy slogans and crafty positioning of tax credits within the broader economic narrative now synonymous of a man so astute in handling the most fiery and potentially troublesome of exchanges.

Both leaders, however, displayed glimpses of why we have come to loathe and love them in such equal measure. Cameron continued the defence of tax credit cuts by highlighting them as a package of balancing measures, insisting that initiatives such as the proposed introduction of the Living Wage will offset, or at least lessen, the impact which the controversial cuts will inevitably have on millions of families. Channelling the pre-Corbyn zeitgeist of an austerity consensus, Cameron artfully presented the cuts as a prerequisite – a stepping stone to achieving the dream of a ‘high pay, low tax, lower welfare economy’ – rendering those who oppose these measures as ideological ‘deficit deniers’ with no conception of economic competence. Shades of the old Cameron-Miliband tussles there.

Yet Corbyn stood defiant. Forcing the issue upon the Prime Minister with all six questions, he made Cameron appear defensive, evasive and as though he had something to hide. Despite the groans from the Government benches as Corbyn sprung his new tactic of presenting questions from the public, it nonetheless remains an effective tool in introducing a very personal element to PMQs which Cameron sometimes appears uneasy in addressing.

Pressing home on tax credits was always likely to give Corbyn the edge today. With the ongoing difficulties to push the measures through the Lords, the proposed cuts are very much an open goal for Labour at the moment. But Corbyn nonetheless performed well, rising above the customary partisan bickering which constantly interrupts the weekly exchange, with a tranquil, motionless, yet resolute stance.

Verdict: Corbyn victory.

Photograph: David Holt via Flickr

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