In the absence of David Cameron from the country, George Osborne took his place at PMQs yesterday, which meant that Angela Eagle took over on the opposition side. This event is notable for the following reasons:
1. The very loud and unquestionably enthusiastic cheer that erupted from the Labour MPs as Bercow called upon Angela to speak. This was in sharp contrast to the moody, subdued mooing that accompanies Jeremy Corbyn’s name when the normal run of things are in play. This tells us little, beyond the fact that a very large proportion of the PLP think Jeremy Corbyn is totally crap, which we knew already.
2. Eagle’s performance was vastly superior to any of Corbyn’s attempts at the same set up, true. The best bit being, of course, when she made fun of Corbyn’s lame “Jenny from Leicester” routine WHILE turning it into a decent stab at Osborne at the exact same time when she whipped out a piece of paper and announced “Donald from Brussels writes…” Again, Eagle was much, much better than Corbyn at PMQs. But most people you might see waiting for a bus on any random street in Britain would be better than Corbyn at PMQs. Essentially, Eagle is a competent, experienced politician who has worked out that the point of PMQs from an opposition perspective is to, you know, try and make the government look bad. So there was a sort of X Factor effect at work: you watch someone dementedly bad come out and butcher and song, which then makes the next person out who can at least hold a tune sound like Stevie Wonder by comparison.
3. The left of centre press was particularly gushing about Eagle’s performance – but it’s easy to see why. Support remains weird for Corbyn amongst the Left’s commentariat – a great example being this article in the Guardian today, in which the author first starts in on how the Right is desperate to take swipes at Jeremy:
“Corbyn’s – and Labour’s – opponents will seize on anything to paint him as an unreconstructed Stalinist itching to send the burghers of Kensington off to some marshy gulag.”
But then proceeds to describe just how awful Enver Hoxha’s reign of terror in Albania really was, this being the man whom Corbyn lovingly quoted the other evening. It makes you wonder what it would take for some of these people to actually wash their hands of Corbyn, if quoting murderous horror shows with glee doesn’t seem to do the trick.
Anyhow, I digress: the point is the Left needs something to cheer about in the age of Corbyn, so I get why Eagle’s performance is being likened to Churchill. There aren’t many moments when Labour gets the better of the Tories these days, so best celebrate them on the rare occasions when they do, I suppose.