“Stupid woman” or “stupid people”? Conservative MPs crowded round the Speaker of the House of Commons yesterday, offering to show him footage of Jeremy Corbyn saying one or the other.
According to them, the Labour leader made the former remark about Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions. According to him, it was the latter – about those who would turn Brexit’s national crisis into a pantomime, as May had just done in a rhetorical flourish – as he is “completely opposed to the use of sexist or misogynist language in absolutely any form at all”.
If it can be conclusively demonstrated Corbyn did make the alleged remark – lip-readers have already been scrutinising the footage – he will be in trouble, made all the more serious because he has denied it.
If he did say it and had simply apologised, it might have carried the same level of opprobrium as David Cameron’s “calm down dear” putdown to a female MP in the Commons in 2011.
At the time, Shadow Cabinet minister Angela Eagle said it showed the unapologetic Cameron was not a “modern man”.
If Corbyn is telling the truth, then it is the latest farcical example of the British public being let down by their political leaders. At a time when this country appears to be careering towards a no-deal Brexit, our politicians will today leave Parliament and head home for 17 days. They will insist it’s not just a “holiday” and that they will be consulting with their constituents, working hard on the greatest political crisis in modern British history.
However if, as many expect, Theresa May’s Brexit plan is voted down, the most important thing will be for MPs from different parties to work together to prevent a potentially catastrophic no-deal Brexit. And the best way to work together, to organise, is still the old-fashioned way – to be in the same room, to look the other person in the eye as you make an agreement, particularly when that individual is from another party.
If a 17-day break is the reason why this cross-party coalition of the sensible fails to form and the UK leaves the European Union on 29 March with no trade deal, plunging the country into what one UK Government briefing paper described as an economic “Armageddon”, then it could become a rather infamous holiday.
Stupid woman? Stupid people? Stupid Parliament.