As Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of Her Majesty's Opposition on such a revolutionary and audacious ticket, it's no surprise that yesterday's PMQ's left many feeling extremely underwhelmed. To his credit, the untenable buzz surrounding JC and his disciples would have made anything less than an entrance via trumpet and horse somewhat disappointing (though I'm sure the ever frugal Jezza would have firmly objected to such a farce). I really did expect more from Corbyn's first major appearance at the dispatch box, considering he has infamously sat shouting from the backbenches for the best part of 3 decades.
Taken at face value, the idea of a doing a 'people's PMQs' (a sound bite the Corbyn camp needs to utilise) is refreshing, clever and certainly different. But instead of exploiting these advantages and the exchange's indisputable originality, Corbyn used Marie from Derby, Gayle from Croydon and Richard from Hull as masks to hide behind - and subsequently as tools to be back hit over the head with. His poor delivery, constant repetition and inability to make eye contact unwittingly revealed the fact that he'd rather be anywhere BUT the Commons at 12pm on a Wednesday - a sentiment that'll be shared by the public if he continues to conduct PMQ's in this lacklustre manner.
Though it certainly will be argued that Corbyn's approach cemented his role as a man of the people, and that it was all a canny and premeditated tactic to show up Cameron's 'flash man' credentials, his poorly prepared, illogical and somewhat random lines of questioning made for an incredibly poor and dull debate. His arguments were overstretched and under prepared. It's virtually impossible to rigorously question your opponent about 3 entirely separate, disjointed issues in just 10 minutes with only 6 questions at your dispersal. Corbyn could have launched an effective attack had he focused purely on mental health OR the housing crisis, two areas the Tories have a poor record on, as this would have caught Cameron off guard and tested the depths of his stage managed 'long term economic plan' dribble. But instead Corbyn attempted to cover both topics, with some generic rhetoric on tax credits thrown in the middle. This allowed Cameron to recite his rehearsed stock answers without dispute or any follow up, thus presenting his argument to the viewer as fact. To summarise, Corbyn came across a bit like a trainee reporter nervously conducting his very first interview. I half expected him to finish his 6th question with 'Anything else you'd care to add, Sir?'
Comrade Corbyn also made a fatal error in ignoring the (herd) of elephants in the room. He could easily have batted away all the unnecessary fuss made over the number of female ministers in his cabinet and his failure to sing the national anthem by making a characteristically un-Corbyn like joke in his opening remarks. This would have disarmed his opponents and made the suspiciously patriotic questions from Tory backbencher's concerning NATO and the Battle of Britain (which were no doubt the handy work of the Whip's office) less effective and damaging. A bit of light hearted humour would have also had the benefit of rallying the remains of the PLP's troops, who stayed almost awkwardly silent throughout their leader's speech. But more detrimentally, by failing to tackle his recent criticisms head on, Corbyn fell victim to multiple blows later in the debate when he was no longer in a position to speak and defend himself.
But the final nail in Corbyn's coffin came at the end of the debate, when the DUP's Nigel Dodds made an impassioned and emotional remark about former parliamentarians killed by the IRA. This sensitive and sobering issue played right into the Tories hands, as they, rather tastelessly, used it as another form of political ammunition in reminding the public of Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell's sympathy for Irish Nationalism and other military insurgents.
What encapsulates all of Corbyn's shortcomings in yesterday's PMQs is a lack of drive and ambition. He seems quite content to remain as a critic, rather than a leader, to react, rather than seize initiative, and to create a socialist movement, rather than a socialist country. He is Labour's accidental leader. As if he went out in search for a Cheeseburger and ended up dining at the Ritz.