PMQs Watch: Attack through defence

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.

Planted question

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
   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
   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.

External link to full exchange


PMQs 4/5/2016





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