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Jeremy Corbyn brings straight talking, honest politics to PMQs

Corbyn at PMQsJeremy Corbyn this morning pledged to try and change Prime Minister’s Questions. Would he go for the “honest politics, plainly spoken” approach of his leadership campaign, avoiding the name-calling and yah boo sucks, or will he rise to the bait put to him by Dave?

As we now know, he started as he’s been carrying on for the last 32 years. He began with housing, and asked about what the government would do about the lack of affordable housing and soaring rents. Dave’s reply, the first as part of his new strategy to offer substantive responses, waxed about more starter schemes, help to buy, and the need to support aspirations. Meet the new politics, the same as the old politics.

Jeremy followed up with a question about how cuts to housing benefits threaten the viability of housing associations, and will cause job losses and worse living conditions for tenants. Dave’s reply was that something had to be done about spiraling housing benefits, and the best way of doing that would be sorting out housing associations. Again, a substantive answer short on substance.

The next question came on tax credits, and talked about a family who had written in to say that tax credits kept them away from the food bank. Dave’s answer was to mutter about minimum wage changes and the raising of the tax threshold. The follow up cited IFS figures, noting that the rise in the minimum wage only compensates for up to 26% of losses through tax credits and other changes – how could this be considered fair? Dave didn’t have an answer, but he did have soundbites. We’ve heard it before – country living within its means, moving from low wages, high tax, and high welfare to the opposite.

Lastly, Jeremy used his last two questions for mental health services. Asked about unobtainable beds and people having to be moved miles away from home, Dave replied on his extra NHS spending, and the need to improve GP services and change public attitudes.

Well, at least it was more substantive than PMQs have been for many a year. It didn’t set the world alight, but as one of many who’ve tuned in regularly to see Dave harangue and insult in the manner of a crap Malcolm Tucker, and to watch Ed Miliband calmly stroll into trap after trap, it was refreshing to see him having to restrain himself and for the initiative to remain with the Opposition leader. Crowd sourcing questions robs Dave of the ability to ridicule the issues Jeremy chooses to go with, and increases the likelihood the PM will get found out on his lack of substance. On the other hand, if this remains the way Jeremy does things opportunities to trip Dave up are lost. Still, it allows Jeremy and Dave to set out their respective stalls, and perhaps – just perhaps – might contribute to a more rational political culture.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

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