I was shocked yesterday to watch a clip from that afternoon’s Prime Minister’s Questions where David Cameron sneered at Jeremy Corbyn: “Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem”. I know our Dave has been working very hard recently and is under intense pressure but surely that is beyond the pale.
One thing that is commendable about our Parliament is a service called Hansard, which publishes a transcript of all the debates. Rather than relying on clips or trying to find the moment in the video record of the whole debate, I can pinpoint the argument. To be absolutely fair to Mr Cameron, he was responding to a heckle from the Labour benches. Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) called out, “Ask your mother!”, referring to his mother having signed a petition opposing cuts to children’s centres. I don’t think that is entirely relevant and is not a moment when Harris covered herself in glory. However, the man who ‘runs the country’ should have had the self control to either address the questioner or to ignore her and focus on the issue rather than putting insulting words in his mother’s mouth.
Corbyn also referred to his own mother, suggesting that her comment would have been, “Stand up for the principle of a health service free at the point of use for everybody”. Is that true? Hansard doesn’t provide biographies of the relatives of speakers so there is a chance that he, too, is putting unwarranted words in her mouth. It is a more dignified response through and Corbyn does seem to have considered the content of recent articles on the Health Service while Cameron was still in the playground, throwing figures around.
Was Jeremy Hunt guilty of understating the number of deaths caused by lack of weekend services? I am not convinced that, even if Cameron’s current figure of choice is more accurate, it is a good defence to claim that his colleague was wrong by a factor of almost 50% on such a crucial statistic. I rather like Coryn’s sartorial choices but, much more importantly, everything I read in this debate suggests that he reads and thinks more deeply about the facts of the matter and responds politely and appropriately to his position as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition rather than playing to the peanut gallery.
I’ll be praying for Cameron, who is clearly under stress, but also longing for the day when our politicians including those in government will be more from Corbyn’s mould.