May and Corbyn clash over ‘burning injustices’ during angry PMQs exchanges
Theresa May has compared Jeremy Corbyn to comedian Groucho Marx after accusing him of watering down his anti-racist and Eurosceptic stances.
The Prime Minister told the Commons that Mr Corbyn “was an anti-racist, now he ignores anti-Semitism” before claiming he backs Remain over Brexit, adding: “He’s truly living up to the words of Marx: ‘Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them I’ve got others’.”
Mrs May also said Labour could have “done a darn sight more” when in power to deal with burning injustices as Mr Corbyn attacked her Government for failing to honour her pledge made on entering Downing Street.
Labour leader Mr Corbyn used Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight cuts to legal aid and the impact they have had on disabled people and those people affected by the Windrush scandal.
He also hit back at Mrs May’s criticism by slamming her for creating the “hostile environment” and said she “refuses to acknowledge” Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
Mr Corbyn said the Tories also associate with “racists and anti-Semites” in the European Parliament and the party “sucks up” to such governments across Europe.
The increasingly angry exchanges between the pair marked a change in tone in PMQs compared with recent months as Mrs May nears her exit from Number 10.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn said many people welcomed the PM’s talk about burning injustices when she took on the role but argued there are now “legal aid deserts across the whole country”.
Mrs May said the question of burning injustices is not just about access to the legal system, adding: “The question of dealing with burning – it’s all very well members of the opposition benches shouting about this, if the Labour Party actually really cared about burning injustices they’d have done a darn sight more when they were in power to deal with (them).”
After Mr Corbyn criticised the Government’s approach to disabled people and the Windrush scandal in the context of legal aid, Mrs May said: “I say to (Mr Corbyn), the way he talks you’d think he was a man of principle – but what do we actually see from him?
“Labour policy is to ban non-disclosure agreements but his staff has to sign them. He was an anti-racist, now he ignores anti-Semitism. He’s been a Eurosceptic all his life, now he backs Remain.
“He’s truly living up to the words of Marx: ‘Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them I’ve got others.’
“I know (Mr Corbyn) is keen to get to the despatch box when the name Marx is identified, I was merely going to point out to him those were the words not of Karl but of Groucho.”
Mr Corbyn shot back: “Coming from the Prime Minister who created the hostile environment, which brought about the Windrush scandal, who ordered go home vans to drive around London, who refuses to acknowledge Islamophobia in her own party, and whose party consorts with racists and anti-Semites in the European Parliament and sucks up to those governments across Europe, we don’t need those kind of lectures.”
The Labour leader highlighted further legal aid concerns, and said there are people who are “invisible” to the system, adding: “Today in modern Britain, millions are denied justice because they don’t have the money. Isn’t that a disgrace? Isn’t that a burning injustice?”
Mrs May replied: “He may do his best to ignore the anti-Semitism in his party but I think he should listen to the words of the former Labour Party general secretary Lord Triesman: ‘We may one day be the party of anti-racism once again but it certainly isn’t today’.
“He has asked questions about injustice, let me tell him about an injustice – it’s an injustice when you force people who are working hard day and night to earn an income for their family to pay more taxes because of a Labour Party economic policy in government that has led to the destruction of our economy.”
Mrs May said Labour has replaced their previous “education, education, education” slogan with “tax, tax, tax”.