Theresa May limps on as Jeremy Corbyn swaggers through Prime Minister's Questions

Christian May
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Labour Party Conference 2017- Day Three
Corbyn took a bizarre line of questioning during PMQs yesterday (Source: Getty)

Jeremy Corbyn may have a certain swagger these days but he hasn't lost his capacity to surprise Westminster-watchers.

The Labour leader has been getting the better of Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions lately, and with the wind in his sails he could have done so again yesterday.

He has the Tories on the ropes over the rollout of Universal Credit and his party is working skilfully to force the publication of the government's Brexit impact assessment.

Read more: Corbyn thinks he can "break the Brexit logjam" - but Barnier doesn't

Furthermore, coming the day after a terrorist attack in New York and at a time when Westminster is engaged in some serious soul-searching over sexual harassment, PMQs could have allowed a rare glimpse of Corbyn the statesman.

As it was, the leader of the opposition had another pressing issue to raise: the importing and registering of private jets on the Isle of Man. Corbyn noted that there are 957 business jets registered on the island, which he said “seems a bit excessive for any island anywhere”.

Private jets registered on the island have to pay VAT at 20 per cent, but planes registered for commercial purposes do not. Many owners argue that because their plane is sometimes used for charter flights (not uncommon among jet owners) they are exempt from the tax.

It took Theresa May a few minutes to get her head around Corbyn's bizarre line of questioning, and of course it wasn't long before the Labour leader had pivoted to questions over tax avoidance in general – one of his favourite themes.

Read more: PMQs live: Theresa May answers MPs' questions amid sexual harassment storm

He urged the government to get serious about tax dodging, rather than make further cuts to public spending in the upcoming Budget. It was classic Corbyn: pick an obscure, technical issue and use it as a device to try and land some blows on a topic that appeals to his base and fires up his backbenchers. The fact that private jets are, for many Labour members, synonymous with the Tory party made the topic irresistible.

The exchange served as a reminder of Corbyn's original appeal to Labour activists, as well as his current popularity among new and younger members. It also allowed Labour to appear on the front foot on the same day that the government lost its defence secretary amid sleaze allegations and suffered a humiliating defeat in the House. Put simply, Corbyn's having a good week.

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