Jeremy Corbyn's Five Greatest Gifts To David Cameron

'Mr Speaker, I thought I had problems.'

05/08/2016 16:00
David Jones/Scott Heppell/PA
David Cameron has had a lot of negative attention neatly deflected by Jeremy Corbyn

Just three months before the demise of his premiership, David Cameron told MPs: “Mr Speaker, I thought I had problems.”

The-then prime minister made the comment in March - at a time that he, by rights, should have been in the spotlight. 

Despite splits in his own party and the resignation of one of his senior ministers, and criticism from his backbenchers, it was his opposite number Jeremy Corbyn who managed to steal the show, because of a leaked list of Labour MPs categorising them by loyalty.

It wasn’t the first time, nor has it been the last, that Corbyn has, through his or his party’s doing, taken the heat off his adversary at times most convenient for Cameron.

Here are his five greatest gifts to Cameron when the ex-PM was saved from a PR disaster:

1. Honours backlash

Corbyn managed to overshadow the outrage over Cameron’s list of resignation honours by tipping Shami Chakrabarti for a spot on the Labour benches in the House of Lords.

The ex-PM had come under significant flack for awarding 62 former aides, donors and prominent ‘Remain’ campaigners honours in a move described by Tim Farron as one that “would embarrass a medieval court”.

Despite mounting pressure for Theresa May to veto some of those honoured from Cameron’s “chumocracy”, Corbyn made the headlines instead when the official list was announced. 

His peerage for Chakrabarti, who chaired an inquiry into anti-Semitism in Labour, sparked condemnation from Jewish groups and even the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis claimed her report’s credibility now “lies in tatters” while Watson called Corbyn’s decision a “mistake” and badly timed.

2. IDS resignation

One event of the last 12 months that could have given Labour a significant boost of confidence and opportunity to shame Cameron was the resignation of his longstanding work and pensions secretary

Iain Duncan Smith had become a figure vilified by the left for his tough stance on welfare, but he withdrew from the government over concerns that cuts to disability benefits was a “compromise too far”.

Many pundits hailed it as a huge embarrassment, as a succession of Tory MPs came out to support IDS.

But at the first chance Corbyn got to confront Cameron publicly, Labour MPs admonished him for failing to mention the resignation. Several branded it “bloody dreadful”, “dire”, and “ill-judged”.

Two days later, at PMQs, John Woodcock tweeted that Corbyn’s delay in mentioning IDS was a “fucking disaster”, while The Telegraph claimed he was “unable to capitalise on the biggest Tory crisis for 20 years”. 

3. Panama papers

Cameron’s embarrassment when his father was named in the controverisal ‘Panama Papers’ was also cut short with a handy distraction.

Ian Cameron’s Blairmore Holdings Inc company, set up in the 1980s, managed tens of millions of pounds for the wealthy but has not ever paid tax on UK profits, the Guardian reported.

But amid the unfortunate revelations, Corbyn managed to upstage him by publishing his own tax return which showed he was fined £100 for submitting it late.

4. Syria air-strikes vote

Cameron faced one of his greatest tests as Prime Minister when he called a second vote on whether Britain should extend a military campaign against so-called Islamic State into Syria. 

Instead of the discussion centring on whether Cameron was right or not to call the vote, Corbyn’s marked divide with his then shadow foreign secretary was the biggest headline grabber, saving the prime minister a potential headache. 

When the Labour leader decided to give his MPs a free vote on the matter to prevent mass rebellion, Hilary Benn took to the Commons floor to defy Corbyn and back the government in a barnstorming speech.

“We are here faced by fascists - not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this chamber - they hold us in contempt,” Benn said.

“My view is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.”

5. Leadership contest

Possibly the most humiliating moment of Cameron’s tenure came as he was forced to resign after losing the EU referendum that he only promised to hold to placate swing Ukip voters and his Eurosceptic MPs, and hoped he might never have to deliver on if last year’s general election resulted in another coalition.

The ensuing announcement of his resignation could have been cause for Labour celebration, but following a revolt by MPs in an attempt to unseat Corbyn, both parties were thrown into turmoil.

The Tory leadership election was over relatively swiftly, with Andrea Leadsom dramatically dropping out in the final round amid controversy over her comments on Theresa May and motherhood.

But Corbyn’s battle with Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), and his sacking of Hilary Benn from the shadow cabinet that precipitated a mass exodus of resignations in solidarity, took all the attention away from any Tory party turmoil.

In an emotional final PMQs, Cameron even mocked Corbyn for how the Labour leadership challenge stacked up to the Conservatives’. 

“We’ve had resignation, nomination, competition and coronation, they haven’t even decided what the rules are yet,” Cameron taunted from the despatch box.

He also joked that Rosena Allin-Khan, the newly-elected Labour MP for Tooting should “keep her mobile phone on - I think she might be in the shadow cabinet by the end of the day”.

Cameron also managed to escape without facing as much of the blame for losing the referendum as many Labour MPs would have liked. Instead some openly blamed Corbyn for not campaigning hard enough. 

They were also infuriated that a protracted battle between Corbyn and the NEC, including the threat of legal action if he was kept off the leadership election ballot paper, overshadowed the coronation of Theresa May.


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