Parliament is winding down this week, so Jeremy Corbyn faced off against Theresa May today for the final time before the General Election. The Labour leader returned to his favoured tactic of asking questions inspired by letters from members of the public, raising issues like the NHS and housing. The cast he presented included Sybil, Andy and Maureen. “If I were you I’d listen to what Maureen says” he at one point warned ominously.
The Prime Minister had little cause for concern, ridiculing her opposite number as “simply not up to the job” and “not fit to run this country”. She wrongfooted him in the end by seizing on a website tweeted by Diane Abbott called “I like Corbyn, but” which highlighted concerns about him like “I’ve heard he’s a terrorist sympathiser”. “Even a Labour wipe-out in June might not lead to a recasting of this most predictable of weekly jousts,” Tom Harris wrote in his review. She was more rattled by the SNP, as she failed to give its leader in Westminster Angus Robertson an “unambiguous” guarantee that the triple lock on pensions would continue. The Tories made sure those watching knew what their election offer was. Mrs May said “strong and stable” a total of 10 times during this epic double-length PMQs (the number of mentions climbs to 16 if you add the times Tory MPs said it). Such devotion to the message may be why the party has preferred to put forward drier figures like Michael Fallon and Philip Hammond on media rounds rather than Boris Johnson. “He’ll be doing a lot of foreign trips in the next few weeks,” joked one Tory colleague to Sky News.
Are campaign chiefs worried about Mr Johnson undermining their efforts to seem managerial? Perhaps they fear he will make a fruity joke, or wave a brick around again, but there is a palpable risk in being boring and not making use of Mr Johnson’s charisma on the campaign trail. Theresa May “needs the public to be excited by the choices on offer. Boris stirs excitement,” Rupert Myers writes. He showed during the EU referendum and twice during Mayoral campaigns that he can be disciplined, so “if the Prime Minister trusts him with Britain’s diplomacy, then surely she can trust him to campaign in both her and the nation’s interest.” Mr Johnson is making his first major appearance tonight speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, and is set to go on a media round tomorrow. Mrs May is now releasing her blond bombshell.
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