Jeremy Corbyn casts Punch and Judy aside at Prime Minister’s Questions

by Luke James
and Roger Bagley
in Parliament

JEREMY CORBYN led a revolution in Parliament yesterday by abandoning Punch and Judy politics to put the public’s questions to the Prime Minister.

Labour’s new leader kept his promise of a “new kind of politics” by crowdsourcing the questions for his first head-to-head with David Cameron.

More than 40,000 people responded to the call and six questions — from people identified as Maria, Stephen, Paul, Clare, Gail and Angela — were chosen.

An unprecedented Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) saw the Tory PM grilled over the housing crisis, tax credit cuts and stretched mental health services.

Mr Corbyn told MPs that his fresh approach was inspired by people who told him that “Parliament was out of touch and too theatrical.”

And one senior Tory MP confessed to the Star that some of his colleagues were taken aback by the Labour leader’s performance.

“It was cleverly judged by Mr Corbyn,” he admitted.

“The questions he put were good ones, and it forced Mr Cameron into a position where he had to reflect them.”

Mr Corbyn was most effective when he asked about Tory cuts to child and working tax credits, which were pushed through Parliament on Tuesday night.

The cuts will mean families losing £1,000 a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Mr Corbyn, who received over 1,000 questions about tax credits, read one “heartfelt” submission from Paul, who asked: “Why is the government taking tax credits away from families?

“We need this money to survive so our children don’t suffer.”

Another about tax credit cuts from Clare, a mum-of-five who works part-time, simply asked: “How is this fair?”

Mr Cameron claimed he was embracing the new style of serious questions and answers, and said he could find common ground with Mr Corbyn on mental health services.

But he resorted to Bullingdon club tactics in his response to scrutiny over tax credits, accusing Labour of wanting a return to “the days of unlimited welfare.

“I say that a family that chooses not to work shouldn’t be better off than a family that chooses to work,” the PM bellowed, to the delight of his backbenchers.

On a day when unemployment rose for the third consecutive quarter, Mr Corbyn calmly replied: “Many people don’t have that choice.

“Many people live in a difficult situation and rely on the welfare state in order to survive.”

Political pundits who craved a confrontation branded the exchange “boring,” but Mr Corbyn won praise from the public on social media.

Labour MPs also rallied behind their new leader, giving him a huge cheer on his despatch box debut.

Giving her verdict on Mr Corbyn’s performance, shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander told the Star: “It was a breath of fresh air.

“The public are crying out for politics to be done in a different way.”

Parliamentary Labour Party chairman John Cryer said the new leader’s approach had “put Cameron on the back foot.”

And deputy party leader Tom Watson said: “How refreshing that, for the first time in years, we had intelligent debate at PMQs.

“If Jeremy is going to carry on like this, I might keep turning up.”

A Labour spokeswoman suggested that Mr Corbyn would not crowdsource all six questions from the public every week.

“We’re looking at things we can do to keep changing PMQs and end Punch and Judy politics,” she said.

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