PORTSMOUTH Labour activist Sue Castillon has heaped praise on Jeremy Corbyn following his Prime Minister’s Question Time debut today.
Giving a first person account of the lunchtime showdown between David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn, Portsmouth South Labour parliamentary candidate Sue Castillon said:
‘Jeremy Corbyn MP made history today in his first PMQs as leader of the opposition Labour Party. He fielded three questions that came from thousands of Labour party members, and asked that the house be less ‘theatrical’ and take the following issues seriously as they were about real people’s lives. The prime minister agreed to this and Jeremy asked questions on housing, cuts to tax credits and mental health.
‘It was a humbling and quietening experience for everyone concerned, including the Tory ministers. This is Jeremy’s style of delivery and involves everyone in the solutions to the issues the country faces.
‘It is different to the usual style of politics that can be combative and negative, not considering what we can change for the better for all of us.
‘The second half was business as usual when questions are open to the floor and many diverse questions were asked about; rhinos, tigers and entrepreneurs in Yorkshire through to Trident, Trade union law and showing respect for veterans.
Although a Scottish national MP did say he was supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s policies particularly on welfare cuts.
‘Unfortunately, this allowed the prime minister to once again ‘showcase’ his policies in the usual way, throwing at us the billions he has invested in the NHS for example.
‘Overall Jeremy’s style of delivery stopped everyone in their tracks by being quiet, dignified and respectful.
What a refreshing change.
‘He has given us all something to think about by considering what some peoples’ lives are really like in this country struggling with poverty, low pay and mental health.’
Portsmouth Labour Party trade union liaison officer Sion Reynolds said:
‘For the first time in decades we finally had a leader of the Opposition stepping up with substantially different views to the prime minister. He said he wanted to be different, to be polite and have a substantive discussion in a more adult way than we have become accustomed to. A breath of fresh air then!
‘But all the pre-match talk was about whether Corbyn will have to answer to not singing the National
Anthem, not wearing a red poppy or not doing up his top button.
‘Predictably then, straight off the bat, we had the predictable Tory plea to get behind the Spitfire heroes of the Battle of Britain.
‘Whilst Corbyn politely acknowledged the services of those to whom we owe our freedom, he quickly put Cameron on the back-foot, telling the House that he had sent out an email to thousands of people asking them for their questions - and he received 40,000 replies!
‘Turning to social housing, he then recounted the testimony of people who had asked about the scrapping of tax credits.
“How is this going to affect hardworking families- surely we will see our standards of living plummet?”
Then he turned to mental health services. “Is it acceptable that mental health services are on their
knees?” he read calmly.
Cameron was reeling. The Tories were quiet, nervous, pensive.
‘Sitting at home, I was enraptured. At last, a Labour leader willing to put firmly on the agenda the concerns of working class people.
‘At last, someone was forcing Cameron to answer to the appalling social legacy of his cuts.
‘People will soon start to get tired of the establishment attacks on minor details like his dress style.
‘Today might have been a fiery baptism, but Jeremy is backed by millions, and stands to lead a reinvigorated Labour Party into power!’
Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said:
‘Did Jeremy Corbyn do well at Prime Ministers Question Time? The answer probably is both yes and no.
He did not get into the ritual name calling and abuse at Prime Ministers Question Time that show politicians at their worst.
‘He said people wanted straight answers to straight questions and less theatrical posturing. In this he succeeded. The asked questions sent in from people across the UK and got answers.
‘Prime Ministers Question Time is meant to be the place where the Prime Minister is pushed on issues that are relevant today.
‘Looking at the exchanges today the Prime Minister did not seem worried by any of the questions he was asked. He just had stock answers to questions.
‘Jeremy Corbyn didn’t press him on any of his answers and that allowed David Cameron to just say what he was always going to say - there was no probing at answers that covered up facts. So I think Jeremy Corbyn let him get away with things.
‘The issues Jeremy Corbyn chose to ask questions on were important. The lack of affordable housing for families, the huge cuts to the incomes of the lowest paid working families by cuts to Tax Credits, the need for decent mental health services.
But Jeremy Corbyn did not push on some of these issues.
‘Councils and Housing Associations will cut the building of new affordable housing in Portsmouth and the rest of the country, because of decisions this Government has made.
‘Thousands of families need decent housing, and we know that decent housing for a family reduces the amount of help they need from the NHS, from schools, from social services. So why did Jeremy Corbyn not ask about the real cuts to affordable housing builds?
‘On Tax Credits a single parent going out to work will lose up to £2,000 a year. A a couple where they both work could lose £1,300 a year.
‘For many it will be better to be on benefits instead of going out to work. Why did Jeremy Corbyn not push the Prime Minister on this? We should be supporting working families, instead the Government is withdrawing support.
So Jeremy Corbyn did ask questions residents wanted answers to, but David Cameron didn’t seem worried by any of the questions, and maybe he should have been. That’s the point of Prime Ministers Question Time.’