PMQs: Corbyn's performance wasn't perfect but he now knows what works

His team now understand his strengths and weaknesses"
His team now understand his strengths and weaknesses"
Natalie Bloomer By

The Conservatives have had a terrible few days. First came the debacle over the Irish border issue, then there was David Davis' appearance in front of the Brexit select committee where he said that the impact assessments on leaving the EU don't actually exist. This is after he stated in October that the documents were in such "excruciating detail" that the prime minister could not have read them all.

So today's PMQs was set to be an easy win for Jeremy Corbyn. It started well.

"In July, the international trade secretary said Brexit negotiations would be the easiest in human history. Does the prime minister still agree with that assessment?" he asked, with much laughter from his back benches.

May responded by saying that "very good progress" is being made. Cue more laughter.


From there it went slightly downhill for the Labour leader. He reverted to his previous style of long and hard to follow questions. At one point it wasn't clear if he was even asking a question at all. But what Corbyn now does very effectively is to include a few catchy phrases and the odd section of well delivered speech which can be shared easily on social media and on news bulletins later in the day. He called the government a "coalition of chaos" - a term the Conservatives once used to describe a potential pact between Labour, the SNP, and the Greens, and he spoke of the "shambles" that Brexit negotiations have become.

Within minutes of the session ending, Labour MPs were repeating the same phrases on Twitter.

"The Tories' Brexit negotiations are a shambles. Only Labour will fight for a Brexit deal that protects Britain’s economy and people’s jobs, rights and living standards. RT if you agree," Kate Osamor and others tweeted.

Corbyn's team know that he will never be a great orator but they understand how to connect with the very people that they want to speak to: younger people, people outside the Westminster bubble, people who don't watch prime minister's questions in full.

Most people are at work or elsewhere at midday on a Wednesday. While journalists and commentators will dissect every word uttered in that half an hour, most people will just watch a clip  of it on social media. And when they do, they will see Corbyn asking that first question or his well delivered closing one which detailed all the ways the Tories are failing the country. They won't see him stumbling on his words or delivering a badly worded question. They will see him looking confident and in control. 

At such an important time for the country, it could be argued that Corbyn let the prime minister off the hook. And it's true that he should have done better. But his team now understand his strengths and weaknesses. Westminster will never be where he is most comfortable but if they can get a few seconds of decent material to post on Facebook or Twitter that will be shared over and over again, they will have done enough to keep up the pressure on May. It may not be the traditional way of doing it, but it's the way that works for Corbyn.

Natalie Bloomer is a journalist for Politics.co.uk. You can follow her on Twitter here. 

The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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