Theresa May tried to cover up the Conservative Government’s appalling record on housebuilding with a weak, scripted joke at Jeremy Corbyn’s expense – and made a bad situation worse.
At Prime Minister’s Questions today (September 7), she was trying to defend against Mr Corbyn’s assertion that the Conservatives had failed in their promise to build one new replacement council house for every dwelling sold under their ‘Right to Buy’ scheme.
It is possible to quibble about the inaccuracy of the answers given. As Mrs May said “housebuilding has been up under a Conservative Government by comparison with a Labour Government”, she is wrong – because the total number of houses built under the last Labour Government was around 42,000 more, every year. Had she stipulated council houses/housing association dwellings, Mrs May could have won the point – but she didn’t.
As for the claim that the Tories haven’t made good on their replacement promise, well, 38,479 council houses have been sold since the Tories made their promise in 2012 and only 4,594 started – that’s roughly eight sold for every one started – so Mr Corbyn is right again.
However, the devil is in the detail, and the Tories do include little stipulations that give them wiggle room. They only promised to start a council home within three years of selling one – and to count only homes that were sold as a result of their 2012 discount. By this standard, they are ahead, as only 3,054 houses were sold in 2012 under the “additional” heading.
If you’re not convinced by the Tory reasoning here, you have every reason not to be. Does anybody really think they’ll still be hitting their target in three years’ time – or that they have hard and fast rules about what constitutes “additional” sales?
So it seems Mr Corbyn wins on factual accuracy, if only for the time being.
Mrs May came thoroughly unstuck, however, when she tried to attack Mr Corbyn on his own ground. Commenting on his habit of using tweeted questions from constituents at PMQs, she mentioned the first tweet that arrived this week:
“I thought I would look to see what sort of responses he had received. I have to say that the first one was quite good. In fact, he might want to ensure that he stays sitting down for this. Lewis writes, ‘Does she know that in a recent poll on who would make a better Prime Minister, “Don’t Know” scored higher than Jeremy Corbyn?’ What we do know is that, whoever wins the Labour party leadership, we are not going to let them anywhere near power again.”
Unfortunately for Mrs May, she didn’t do her homework.
It turns out that ‘Lewis’ is a very unsavoury individual whose Twitter timeline is full of comments such as this, on hate crimes against Polish people near the site where another Pole was murdered:
Coming only a matter of weeks after Mrs May expressed her own horror at hate crimes directed at Polish people, her use of this man’s comment in an attempted put-down of Jeremy Corbyn is nauseating.
It’s one catastrophic error of judgement after another with this pathetic excuse for a prime minister.
As for her parting comment – “whoever wins the Labour party leadership, we are not going to let them anywhere near power again” – it is clear that Labour cannot kick the Cons out of office soon enough.
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