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The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn produced a barnstorming display in today’s PMQs, laying into the soon-to-be-departed Prime Minister Theresa May over her ‘abject failure’ to solve a single one of the many “burning injustices” she pledged to alleviate during her maiden speech as Prime Minister.
In his opening question, Corbyn took aim at the Tories’ swingeing cuts to legal aid, questioning the Prime Minister as to whether she believed that equal access to justice was vital to tackling her so-called burning injustices.
In response, May avoided tackling the issue directly, instead attempting to argue that there were “a variety of ways” to tackle burning injustices and pointing to her own Race Disparity Audit, which she claimed “shines a light on inequality in public services” and is “enabling us to put into place action that helps to ensure that people across this country, whatever their background, will have access to the public services they need.“
In his second question, Corbyn pushed further on legal aid – pointing to the Legal Aid and Advice Act, introduced by the Labour Party 70 years ago this year, which “gave all people access to justice, not just the rich“, adding:
“The Tory/Lib Dem coalition slashed legal aid in 2013, and the results are clearly unfair: the number of law centres and other not-for-profit legal aid providers has nearly halved. There are now legal aid deserts across the whole country. Does the Prime Minister think that has helped or hindered the fight against burning injustices?”
May again refused to answer directly, claiming that “the whole question of burning injustices is not just about access to the legal system” – a brazenly hollow diversion tactic that produced audible anger amongst MPs, with the PM responding to the shouts by inanely claiming:
“It’s all very well members of the opposition shouting about this, but if the Labour Party really cared about burning injustices they would have done a darn sight more about them when they were in power.”
The next two questions displayed a similar theme, with the Labour leader first evoking a story about a 71-year old man named Marcus being threatened with eviction and having absolutely no access to legal aid, and then laying out how the Tories’ cuts have also “failed disabled people“.
However, once again, rather than attempting to answer Corbyn’s questions directly, May went on the attack, claiming that “if [Corbyn] was really interested in tackling injustices, then the biggest injustice he should tackle is in his own party with antisemitism“.
Corbyn – whose party have accepted there is a problem, instigated an official investigation, and are actively seeking to resolve it- responded by arguing that Labour were “totally committed to tackling racism and antisemitism in any form“, before accusing the Tories of completely ignoring their own racism problems and calling for them to finally instigate an investigation into Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred within their own party.
The Labour leader then went on to cite a recent United Nations report which “condemend the UK government for its grave and systematic violations of the rights of disabled people“, before arguing that the Windrush Scandal has resulted in the government having to allocate £200m and questioning whether the Tories’ legal aid cuts may have played a part.
Mrs May responded by reiterating her apology to those affected by the Windrush scandal, but again attempted to point the finger at Labour rather than deal with the issue directly, going on to quip that “[Corbyn] was an anti-racist, now he ignores antisemitism. He’s been a Eurosceptic all his life but now he backs Remain.”, before going on to make a joke about Marx, stating:
“He’s truly living up to the words of Marx: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them I have others”. I know the Right Honourable gentleman is keen to get to the despatch box when the name Marx is identified, but I was merely going to point out to him that those were the words, not of Karl, but of Groucho.”
However, Corbyn reacted in blistering fashion, stating:
“Coming from the Prime Minister who created the Hostile Environment which brought about the Windrush Scandal; who ordered Go Home vans to drive around London; who refuses to acknowledge Islamophobia in her own party, and whose party consorts with racists and antisemites in the European Parliament and sucks up to those governments across Europe – we don’t need those kind of lectures!”
You can Corbyn’s blistering attack below:
The UN says legal aid cuts have overwhelmingly affected the poor and people with disabilities.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) July 10, 2019
The Labour leader’s final question summarised the theme of legal aid cuts, with Corbyn stating:
“One legal aid firm said “we see more people, more desperate, and in more extreme need than they were five years ago – there is nowhere to send them. Those people are invisible to the system. This is a denial of people’s basic rights” [Whilst] the UN says that legal aid cuts have overhwelmingly affected the poor and those with disabilities. Without equal access to justice there is no justice. Today in modern Britain, millions are denied justice because they don’t have the money – isn’t that a disgrace? Isn’t that a burning injustice?”
Astonishingly, Mrs May didn’t even bother giving lip service to Mr Corbyn’s question, immediately (and rather ironically given her own brazen ignorance of widespread calls for an inquiry into Tory Islamophobia) claiming that Mr Corbyn was doing “his best to ignore the antisemitism in his party“.
The Prime Minister’s response evoked fury, with numerous MPs shouting for her to “answer the question!” – however, Mrs May ignored them, before citing the resignation of a Labour Peer yesterday:
“I think he should listen to the words of the former Labour Party General Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, who said: “we may one day be the party of anti-racism once again, but it certainly isn’t today”.
Amid repeated and consistent cries for her to simply answer the question, Mrs May simply carried on, finishing her “answer” by attacking the Labour Party over their economic policies, stating:
“It’s an injustice when you force people who are working hard day and night to earn an income for their family to pay more taxes because of a Labour Perty economic policy in government that has led to the destruction of our economy”
“What do we see from the Labour Party? You earn more, they want you to pay more tax. You buy a home, they want you to pay more tax. you want to leave something to your children? They want you to pay more tax. Labour’s £9Bn Family Tax.”
“Labour used to have a slogan of ‘Education. Education. Education.’ – now it’s just ‘Tax. Tax. Tax. Injustice. Injustice.’
Not only did Mrs May refuse to answer a single question directly, she steadfastly refused to acknowledge any of her and her own party’s many, many failures in government – instead trying to attack a party who haven’t been in power for almost an entire decade.
Furthermore, Mrs May’s attempt to attack Labour over antisemitism fell completely flat, – not least because whilst the Labour Party have openly acknowledged there is a problem, have completed their own investigation into it, and are actively working to solve it, the Tories are outright ignoring widespread calls for an investigation into anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia within their ranks.
With every single question, the Labour leader tore straight into the heart of the Tories’ agenda – an increasingly brazen and entirely morally defunct agenda which, with every policy and announcement, simply attempts to protect the interests of the rich and powerful over and above ordinary people.
And with every single non-answer and deflection, Mrs May summed up the vapidity and sheer audaciousness of a party who have brought the country nothing but failure and misery, but whom – thanks to their billionaire backers in the media and establishment – are somehow still able to convince the public to vote them support them against their own interests.