THIS Parliament’s final Prime Minister’s Questions has set records for the frequency that Theresa May and her Tory straight-man feeds used the formulation “strong and stable.”
Even she looked embarrassed towards the end of the extended PMQs as she trotted out the words once again with all the predictability and charisma of a speaking clock.
Her embarrassment will not have been eased by Labour MP Paul Flynn’s suggestion that Tory MPs have had a “Crosby chip” implant that requires them to utter the words every 18 seconds, together with his concern over whether the affliction is curable.
For all May’s ministerial experience, Tory Party imagemoulders clearly judge her as incapable of debate with Jeremy Corbyn without a comprehensive script, stage directions and well-rehearsed ad libs thrown in.
Her meet-the-people election tour of Britain involves pitching up to security-swamped venues packed with hand-picked Tory voters, delivering her spiel and beating the retreat quickly to avoid meeting real people.
Compare that with Corbyn’s practice of announcing his speaking dates at accessible public sites and welcoming large numbers of voters who haven’t been through a vetting process.
Which of these scenarios reflects strong leadership and which a party apparatus face card prepared to talk big before scuttling away from scrutiny?
While Tory MPs and their media accomplices redefine personal strength as readiness to wage war through drone assassination whatever the civilian “collateral damage” or willingness to incinerate millions of people in a nuclear holocaust, Corbyn prefers United Nations involvement to defuse and negotiate conflicts.
He is not implacably opposed to the use of military force when there is no alternative, but unilateral kneejerk “let’s bomb someone or something” responses have been costly and ineffective.
Corbyn’s assessment of the Tories as “strong against the weak and weak against the strong” sums up a government that operates ruthlessly against disabled claimants while bowing and scraping to City speculators.
The Prime Minister makes much of the weekly PMQs rigmarole to insist that she engages regularly in debate with the opposition leader, but yesterday’s performance undermined that claim.
When Corbyn asked questions and made observations on key issues raised with him in writing by voters, the PM ducked them.
She retreated behind another adviser-prescribed formulation, saying that June 8 would provide voters with a choice between strong and stable government and a coalition of chaos.
The real choice will be between one side that hands tax breaks to the rich and powerful while imposing cuts on health and education budgets and praising itself as strong and stable and another that will raise living standards, especially for the poorest, by letting those most able to pay more tax do so.
May has no intention of dealing with close-quarters debate on such issues.
She is given huge latitude by the media when she body-swerves questions on whether the Tories will continue the triple lock on state pensions, drawing the obvious conclusion, as SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson did, that she is intent on ditching it but won’t come clean.
Compare that with the third-degree interrogation Labour representatives are put through to justify every penny of a spending commitment.
Televised debates for party leaders could smoke out May, which is why she is so opposed to engaging in such think-on-your-feet scrutiny without the final word and without a baying Tory mob.
All the more reason for the labour movement to keep the pressure on to demand answers not waffle.