Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs on January 18th 2016. Photo: Youtube / UK Parliament Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs on January 18th 2016. Photo: Youtube / UK Parliament

In this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Corbyn and May battled on Brexit and the NHS. Cameron Panting takes a look at the reality behind the rhetoric

Following Theresa May’s Brexit speech, Jeremy Corbyn took the opportunity to take her to task on the contradictions of the Tories position. The Tories are being forced to implement something that is against their own interests. In so doing, a cut and run deal, with tax breaks for the rich may be their only option.

Corbyn set off PMQ’s by calling May the ‘Irony Lady’ for claiming to be bringing back parliamentary sovereignty, while at the same time dodging parliament in her speech the day before.

He then urged her to stop her threat of a ‘bargain basement Brexit, a low pay tax-haven on the shores of Europe’, recognising that the deal the Tories are heading for, whatever its details in terms of market access and trade, will be a Brexit for the rich, with things like extra funding for the NHS not even on the table. It would be possible to get a good deal and raise living standards, but that is not what May or the Tories want.

The Tories are in caught in a bind. Most bankers, business leaders and Tory MPs want Britain to remain in the single market.

David Cameron called a referendum to shore up his position and ended up destroying himself politically and destabilising British capitalism. May is having to bend to an angry public in the only way she knows how, by limiting immigration. This balancing act cannot last. As negotiations proceed, May’s own MP’s and allies in business will increasingly find themselves at odds with the government’s position.

May attempted to ridicule Corbyn for his wage-cap pledge, for wanting to borrow money to invest, and for being pro-migration – linking it to failing public services. He took down this baseless claim and celebrated the contribution of immigrants, who are crucial to sustaining the NHS and other essential services.

The Right’s arguments are weak. As well as blaming migrants for the NHS crisis, the Tories criticised patients. In the questions at the start of PMQ’s to set the tone of the debate, one MP popped up from the benches to state that the problems with the NHS are caused by people missing appointments – Theresa May dutifully agreed.

Corbyn pointed to the real problem, cuts, and said that Labour would invest. We are winning this argument. The public now sees the NHS as the most important issue facing us as a country, and if we are all out on the NHS demo on 4th March, and Corbyn continues to press on this issue, then we can put real pressure on the government.

Brexit is happening. It’s down to us to make sure it’s a deal for working people. The disarray of the government should be an opportunity for us, an opportunity to argue for a people’s Brexit, for re-nationalising public services and taking control of key sectors of industry, for free movement, a massively increased minimum wage and a properly imposed maximum income, These are policies that could be extremely popular. We must start the argument for them now.

Join the discussion at the People’s Question Time on Thursday, where we will be discussing Brexit and our demands.  

Cameron Panting

Cameron Panting was formerly National Organiser for Counterfire. He is active within the People's Assembly and Stop The War.