19th April 2017
Prime Minister’s Questions
It was clear in this session that both party leaders were testing out the attacks lines which will be used on the campaign trail. The Prime Minister pressed Jeremy Corbyn on his record on defence and criticised Labour’s spending commitments. Theresa May also attacked Corbyn’s Brexit stance, returning to an issue that polls well for the Tories. The Labour leader’s main line of attack was on education, with a number of his colleagues challenging the PM on changes to schools funding. This session was the busiest the chamber has been for Prime Minister’s Questions for a number of weeks, with energy levels rising ahead of the snap General Election. The stand out performer of the session was Yvette Cooper, who needled the Prime Minister on her u-turns, presenting the issue as a matter of trust.
Motion for a General Election
After PMQs finished in the chamber Parliament debated a motion on holding an early General Election. The Fixed Term Parliament Act, passed in 2011 by the Coalition Government to improve the stability of the Executive, requires a 2/3rds majority of all MPs in order to be bypassed and an early election held. The House of Commons was allotted nearly two hours for this debate, with a vote being held at 2:30pm. Arguments were made from the SNP and Labour benches that holding an early election was contrary to what Theresa May had initially promised, and as such a betrayal of the public. The Prime Minister used the same argument as she had in her initial announcement yesterday, that an election now would create stability for the Brexit process, to see off her critics.
The motion eventually passed by 522 to 13. Of the 13 MPs that voted against the motion, nine were Labour, including Clive Lewis and Dennis Skinner, three were independent, and one was from the Northern Irish SDLP party. The SNP abstained from the vote, MPs from the House of Commons backed the motion giving it the 2/3rds majority necessary. The House will now sit until 3rd May, before dissolving for the election period.
Jeremy Corbyn used Prime Minister’s Questions to push Theresa May on her unwillingness to participate in television debates, after a spokesperson made clear that the PM would not be taking part. From the Tory perspective, televised debates only serve the opposition, as they risk weakening her advantage over Corbyn should she fail to perform to expectations. ITV have since announced that they were planning on holding election debates regardless of the Prime Minister’s involvement, threatening to ‘empty chair’ her. In reality, a compromise will most likely be reached between Theresa May and the broadcasters, benefitting all sides.
MPs standing down
Following the announcement of a General Election, a number of MPs have taken the decision not to contest their seats. Those who have said they will not stand again so far are:
The reasons for these MPs stepping down are mixed, but there is a slight trend towards Labour MPs in marginal seats not willing to contest the election again.
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