Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday provided an interesting mix of topic exchanges as Jeremy Corbyn went up against David Cameron. Corbyn came ready to fire off a set of questions on housing and social deprivation but was put on the defensive as Cameron came back with an attack on Corbyn’s putative past links with people and organisations he deemed as terrorists.
In PMQs, the Prime Minister is supposed to be answering the questions but yesterday proved how the Prime Minister is able to use the event to ask his own questions and to put the questioner on the back foot: attack through defence.
Cameron came to the chamber clearly ready to make the link between Corbyn and Hezbollah/Hamas, and to press his own agenda. A planted question by one of his own party members just before Corbyn rose to speak was clearly designed to give the PM the opportunity to raise the issue:
Karl McCartney: so would my right honourable friend join me (.) and all our colleague on this side of the house (.) in condemning the actions (.) and propaganda of Hezbollah and Hamas DC: ... but the point he makes about Hamas is important we should be clear about who they are they are a terrorist group who believe in killing Jews ... until he withdraws the remark that they were his friends he needs to do it and he should do it today
Corbyn had to defend himself which placed his own line of questioning in the background.
JC: ... that anti-Semitism has no place in our society whatsoever and we all have a duty to oppose it (2.0) tomorrow mister speaker ((switches topic))
Cameron was easily able to use his time at the dispatch box however to bring the topic back to Corbyn’s previous associations and statements.
DC: but I’m gonna press him on this point because he did say this he said it will be my pleasure and my honour to host an event in parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking ... will he take this opportunity because if he wants to clear up the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour party now is a good time to start withdraw that they’re your friends
Corbyn was forced to defend himself on this issue under a good deal of attack from opposition members. Cameron however used his answers confidently to keep the pressure on despite the fact that Corbyn’s line of questioning was on housing and social care.
DC: but I’m afraid he’s going to have to do this one more time he referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as his friends (1.0) now (.) he needs to withdraw that remark let me give him another chance are they your friends (.) or are they not DC: one more time say you withdraw the remark about Hamas and Hezbollah being your friend
This line of attack persisted throughout the question and answer exchange between Corbyn and Cameron and shows how well Cameron is able to manipulate PMQs to not only defend his own record but also attack his opponents.