World

Pointless PMQs shows up the government’s powerlessness

1 May 2019

10:26 PM

1 May 2019

10:26 PM

Most MPs’ minds are elsewhere at the moment, with the local elections on Thursday and the European elections looming at the end of the month. Many of them were physically elsewhere at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, which took place in a sparsely-populated Chamber with little atmosphere. A low rumble of bored chattering accompanied Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s exchanges, which lacked the usual political fire and fury of sessions held right before a poll. Neither of them really bothered to engage in exchanges, instead reeling off poorly-planned lines about social mobility, life expectancy and social care. The Prime Minister produced one of the worst jokes of her premiership when she told Corbyn that he should have welcomed the anniversary of the union between England and Scotland. It was the first time he hadn’t welcomed a union, she quipped. MPs didn’t miss that she was trying to make a joke, but couldn’t bring themselves even to react to it.

The session trundled on, with May taking every opportunity to congratulate any MP who had been so much as spectating at the London Marathon on Sunday, before telling almost anyone who asked a question that she would get a minister to look into it. It is not unusual for the Prime Minister to fail to reveal anything, but today she barely bothered to turn up. Many of her colleagues who do not have to stand up at the dispatch box didn’t bother at all.

You could say that this lacklustre session is merely down to the looming elections. But it is also part of a wider trend in Parliament, where there isn’t anything for MPs to do. The Commons rose at 4.20pm yesterday because there is no legislation to debate. The government can’t introduce anything because it won’t pass, and even if it would pass, it’s not clear ministers have any sense of direction which might lead to them trying to develop new policies. So there isn’t much to talk about, which would be acceptable if the Tories felt they’d accomplished what they needed to. Given May had a powerful assessment of the ‘burning injustices’ facing this country when she became Prime Minister, it’s hard to conclude that they have.


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