In this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, there was no shortage of intensity. As usual, vigorous debate dominated the House of Commons, with both sides producing an animated atmosphere as always.
Prime Minister David Cameron came under fire, being pressed with tough questions from opposition figures. The debate kicked off with questioning about how more apprenticeships for younger people were to be made available. Mr Cameron responded by stating that two million apprenticeships were created in the previous parliament; and that he aimed to produce three million by the end of his next term, by working with small businesses.
As one would expect, Jeremy Corbyn put this figure under scrutiny. He enquired why construction apprenticeships had plummeted by 10% under Mr Cameron’s leadership. Being a vital sector, the Labour leader put great importance on the future of construction jobs in Britain. Mr Cameron blandly responded to this, repeating the figures he had initially provided.
In a landmark moment, Mr Corbyn produced his 100th question to Mr Cameron since becoming Labour leader last September. Yet this milestone moment proved highly disappointing to the Labour leader. He still felt he had not received a clear and direct response to his question about funding for sixth-form and adult education.
“Mr Speaker, on ninety-nine previous attempts to ask questions to the prime minister, I’ve been dissatisfied with the answer as indeed many other people have. Will the government acknowledge the importance of sixth form colleges and post 16 education services in Britain?”
As shown in the video, Cameron responded, proclaiming that university places will remain uncapped, enabling more college leavers hoping to attend university. To give credit where it’s due, the number of working class students attending university has increased in recent years.
Mr Corbyn grilled the Prime Minister further. A concerning issue for many way raised, in regards to the half a million children that still live in poverty, and how Mr Cameron hopes to tackle the deprived circumstances that many live in. Mr Cameron responded, praising his own record of creating 680,000 less unemployed households – with better changes for children. This vague figure would include jobs which are limited to zero-hour contracts, and that provide hours/wages that aren’t substantial to feed a family. Clearly he evaded answering another question directly.
Again, Mr Cameron didn’t fall short on this feat in regards to a question on tax cuts for the highest earners. The tax rate had been cut from 50p to 45p. Mr Corbyn condemned this, reminding that Britain’s highest income group have the lowest tax rates out of all G7 nations. Despite the move being reported to raise £8 billion, it was revealed as a misconstrued claim; as the this money came from the richest earners delaying their payment to the next tax window after the move was announced, to save themselves money in the process.
Over and over, being confronted with issues such as lack of funding in teaching, tax cuts for the rich, lack of appropriate apprenticeships, Mr Cameron would divert the issue by highlighting Labour’s economic policy, not just at present, but in past governments. Labour’s previous spending is still a key weapon in his arsenal; criticising how the last Labour government messed up the economy. This not only ignores the fact that the current Labour cabinet is entirely new compared to the one in 2007-08, but the recession around that time was essentially a global banking crisis, as opposed to a mismanagement from the UK government.
This rhetoric is drilled into the minds of the British public. It vastly diminishes the faith in Labour’s ability to manage the economy. In the meantime, it gifts the Conservative party with more justification to enact further tax cuts, and crippling austerity measures.
Labour was further shut out, by a jeering Conservative bench which resembled a band of spoiled school-bullies. This is not a rarity to witness during Prime Minister’s questions either. It restricts rational debate, and shows that Mr Corbyn and his party are being silenced consistently, despite the Labour leader showing unceasing grit when pressing for an answer.
Further issues covered included: Labour meetings with members of the Asian community, where men and women were segregated, criticised by Cameron as tolerating “people with bigoted religious views treating women as second class citizens“; Cameron being asked if he would step down if Britain left the EU, to which he briskly replied “No!”; and criticism of the ESA cuts which have been recently implemented.