Two lame ducks face off - and it's Cameron speaking for Labour

Mr Corbyn\'s behaviour in recent days has been fascinating, and revealing.

Published: 30th June 2016 07:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th June 2016 07:58 AM   |  A+A-

Britain EU_Mukh

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech at the Engine Room in the People's History Museum, Manchester, Tuesday June 21, 2016. Britain goes to the polls on June 23 in referendum on their EU membership.

LONDON: They just went on chatting. With five minutes to go before Prime Minister's Questions, Jeremy Corbyn entered the Commons entirely ignored.

No one even jeered; they barely looked up. Labour MPs simply went on talking among themselves. In a way, it was more insulting than heckles and yells of "Resign!" would have been.

There had been a rumour, beforehand, that Labour MPs would boycott PMQs in protest against their leader. In the event, they were there. They were just acting as if he wasn't.

Mr Corbyn's behaviour in recent days has been fascinating, and revealing.

At the final rally of Mr Corbyn's leadership campaign, in September last year, John McDonnell claimed that his old friend had been reluctant even to run; colleagues on the Left had had to cajole this humble, unassuming creature into letting his name be put forward.

Now look. In the space of a year, he's apparently gone from refusing to stand to refusing to stand down. Almost his entire shadow cabinet resigned, 172 of his MPs delivered a vote of no confidence in his leadership, yet still he clings, with ferocious determination and an unnerving lack of humility, to power.

It just goes to show the extent to which our perceptions of politicians are informed by appearances. Mr Corbyn looks modest, he sounds modest, so we assume he is modest. Maybe he was, once. But evidently no more. Such is the power of power.

With a lame duck Leader of the Opposition facing a lame duck Prime Minister, PMQs at first felt even more futile than normal. Exchanges between the two men were torpidly cordial; Mr Cameron, now working out his notice, hadn't bothered to prepare the usual put-downs.

For five minutes they patted the ping-pong ball languidly back and forth. Until, that is, Mr Corbyn started pontificating about the EU referendum result and its causes. Suddenly Mr Cameron was riled. "We all have to reflect on our role in the referendum campaign," he spat.

"I know the honourable gentleman says he put his back into it. All I can say is, I'd hate to see him when he's not trying."

Tory MPs cheered. I half-expected Labour MPs to cheer, too. Instead they continued to sit in glum silence.

Mr Corbyn moved off the referendum. But Mr Cameron's blood was up.

"He talks about job insecurity," he snapped. "It might be in my party's interests for him to sit there - but it's not in the national interest." He glared at Mr Corbyn, eyes aflame with anger. "And I would say: for heaven's sake, man... GO!"

We're used to seeing Mr Cameron taunt Mr Corbyn at PMQs. But normally the attacks feel scripted and rehearsed. Not this one. This was a spontaneous flare-up of authentic fury. In fact, more than fury: disgust.

Yes, this is where we are now, in this strange, sour political year. We've got a Tory Prime Minister, speaking for Labour.

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