In Depth

David Cameron slammed for 'ugliest PMQs in years'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not escape criticism for his 'shockingly weak' performance

160505_corbyn_v_cameron.jpg

David Cameron has been widely criticised for using yesterday's Prime Ministers Questions to launch personal attacks on opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Coming on the eve of crucial elections across the country, "you'd expect PMQs to be a ding-dong about bin collections, council taxes and maybe even police and crime commissioners", says The Sun.

That was not the case. The Prime Minister wasted no time in seizing on Corbyn's handling of last week's anti-Semitism row "in some of the ugliest Commons scenes in recent memory", reports the paper.

The session began with a well-received joke from Corbyn, who took aim at Cameron's failure to remember which football team he was meant to support. 

"I join the PM in congratulating Leicester City," he said. "But I hope it's not an indication that he's going to support another football team. Or is he going to stick with the two he's got already?"

A political punch-up quickly followed. "It didn't so much go downhill as rocket launch itself into the white hot centre of the earth," says Tom Peck, The Independent's parliamentary sketch writer.

Cameron jumped on calls for Corbyn to condemn anti-Israel groups Hamas and Hezbollah, repeatedly demanding that he retract the description he made of them as "friends" in 2009.

"Time and again Mr Cameron flew at the Labour leader, shouting, pirouetting, grinning, thumping the dispatch box and looking to his colleagues for approval," says the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts.

He argues that the Prime Minister's anger with Labour felt "false" and "political", adding: "It was the most unpleasant PMQs I have attended."

Ian Dunt, the editor of Politics.co.uk, came to a similar conclusion: "With polling stations opening in less than 24 hours, [Cameron] wanted the words 'Hamas' and 'Labour' to share as many sentences as possible."

Corbyn did get a chance to hit back at the PM, accusing the Conservatives of running a racially divisive smear campaign against Labour's candidate for London mayor, Sadiq Khan. He also attempted to steer the debate towards social issues, but was repeatedly shut down by Cameron.

"There are many reasonable criticisms to make of Mr Corbyn over Labour's anti-Semitism problem," says the Daily Telegraph. "But Mr Cameron's duty at PMQs is to answer questions about his government. And here he opportunistically ducked it."

However, the Labour leader did not escape criticism. He was "shockingly weak today, even by his own standards", said Dunt.

"They were both pitiful today: cynical, irresponsible and painfully short-sighted. Of the two, Cameron was by far the worst culprit," the journalist concluded.

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