PMQs sketch: May sets election tone with Corbyn attack

Theresa May attacks Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Theresa May attacks Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

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On the day that MPs started the clock ticking on a snap election in just seven weeks, SNP MPs were eager to pass the time of day with the Prime Minister.

So eager, in fact, that at one point several of them were urgently waving their arms in the air, wristwatches bared.

Theresa May had made the mistake of telling them that “now is the time” for a general election, when just a few weeks ago she said that “now is not the time” for a second independence referendum. MPs were due to vote on a motion to call a snap election after PMQs, but the campaign started early.

Setting the tone for the next seven weeks, the Prime Minister picked out every one of Jeremy Corbyn’s unhappy backbenchers and reminded them – and the country – of Labour’s divisions.

“If the honorable gentleman was not willing to support him as leader of his party,” the Prime Minister told the unlucky Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington, “why should his voters support him as leader of the country?”

Mr Corbyn tried to hit the Prime Minister with a record of falling incomes, rising hospital waiting times and growing child poverty, but the blows didn’t land.

It fell to Yvette Cooper to put Mrs May on the spot. “The Prime Minister yesterday said that she was calling a general election because parliament was blocking Brexit, but three quarters of MPs and two thirds of the Lords voted for Article 50, so that’s not true, is it?”

As Tory MPs whistled, the Prime Minister mouthed: “It is true.”

Ms Cooper continued: “A month ago, she told her official spokesman to rule 
out an early general election, and that wasn’t true either, was it?

“She wants us to believe that she is a woman of her word. Isn’t the truth that we cannot believe a single word she says?”

Sitting next to the Prime Minister, David Mundell said it was a “leadership pitch”, a thought some Labour MPs must have shared.

In the debate, Conservative Desmond Swayne noted that turkeys don’t usually vote for Christmas.

But with Labour MPs voting in favour of a snap election, “today those turkeys will indeed vote for that.”

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