Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn weren’t at PMQs, but the B-Team really came through
When the teachers are away, the kids will play.
In absence of both party leaders on Wednesday, Prime Minister’s Questions became a lively affair as frontbenchers Damian Green and Emily Thornberry represented May and Corbyn.
On the agenda was Brexit, and with just over 20 months to go until Britain officially leaves the EU, the possibility of a potential “no deal” exit was a hot topic.
And yet, it was the dynamic exchange between the two cabinet stand-ins which really drew people’s attention.
What a pleasure to have 2 front benchers who are good at this. Reminds me of the old days. #PMQs— John Rentoul (@JohnRentoul) July 12, 2017
Lot of love for Thornberry and Green on my Twitter feed from old-school hacks, nostalgic for the days of proper questions and actual answers— Robert Colvile (@rcolvile) July 12, 2017
Ahead of her first question, Thornberry noted that Green had been the 16th cabinet member to represent the Tories at PMQs since he was first elected in 1997, and added: “How about I give him up to the end of the session to name all the others?”
In good humour, Green jokingly accepted Thornberry’s challenge and was quick to respond by pointing out the Conservative record of being represented by two female Prime Ministers – Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.
“There are many, many distinguished people of both sexes who’ve done (PMQs) in this party because we, of course, elect women leaders,” the First Secretary of State delivered to cheers from the Tory front and backbenches.
But Thornberry did not disappoint with her clapback.
She said: “I mentioned at the outset that he’s the 16th member to represent his party in Prime Minister’s Questions since 1997 – only three of those have been women, and the last one before the current Prime Minister was 16 years ago.
“I believe we’ve had three women Labour MPs doing this job in the last two years alone.”
Quite an odd little knockabout between Emily Thornberry and Damian Green about which party has the bigger binders full of women #PMQs— Isabel Hardman (@IsabelHardman) July 12, 2017
Not a fan of Thornberry at all but she is q impressively zingy here. Def better than Corbyn substandard waffle. #PMQs— janeemul (@janeemul) July 12, 2017
Emily Thornberry is absolutely bossing #PMQs— Zoe (@z_o_e_) July 12, 2017
The zingers didn’t end there, as Thornberry challenged the Tory leadership’s weakened position following June’s election, and suggested that there could be more than a few keen frontbenchers looking to replace May.
The MP for Islington South and Finsbury said: “I understand the Honourable Member is new to this, but the way that it works is that I ask the questions, and he answers them.
“We’re (Labour) quite happy to swap places with them and, frankly, if he doesn’t want to continue under these rules, I’m sure there’s plenty other people on the front bench who wold love to audition as Prime Minister.”
May was absent on Wednesday as she attended a ceremony to welcome the King and Queen of Spain on their State Visit to the UK.
Thornberry took Labour’s lead at PMQs last December, where she was mostly praised for her performance against Commons leader David Lidington, who represented the Tories.
During Wednesday’s session, Thornberry also compared suspended Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris to former BNP leader Nick Griffin, after Morris used the n-word last week while discussing the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
Thornberry shoe horns in mention of awful Anne Marie Morris comments - 'she turned herself into Nick Griffin'— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) July 12, 2017
Amid the exchanges, Tory representative Green committed a gaffe when he wrongly identified shadow education secretary Angela Rayner as Labour’s Education “spokesman”.
Damian Green calls Angela Rayner Labour's education 'spokesman'. Rayner reminds him 'I'm a woman, not a man'. pic.twitter.com/BgvNF1x2im— Ned Simons (@nedsimons) July 12, 2017
Rayner took to Twitter to remind Green.
I have to remind Damien Green when he misquoted me as Education Spokesman,I'm actually a woman! Do Tories only ever listen to blokes? #PMQs— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) July 12, 2017