‘Car crash’ Corbyn misses chance to skewer Tories over National Insurance U-turn

Jeremy Corbyn has been attacked by his own MPS over his failure to stick the knife into Theresa May over the Government’s dramatic U-turn on National Insurance contributions.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the reversal of the planned Budget tax hike just a week after it was announced, around 15 minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions was due to start.

Eyes were fixed on the Labour leader to make it awkward for the Government front bench but critics said he “badly missed” his chance during what was seen as a lacklustre performance.

Jeremy Corbyn was blasted by backbench MPs over his PMQs performance (PA)
Philip Hammond made a U-turn on his planned National Insurance rise (PA)

Mr Corbyn said the climbdown on a measure intended to raise £2 billion over the coming years, had left “a black hole in the Budget” and said the Mrs May should apologise to the country, adding: “It seems to me like a Government in a bit of chaos.”

But while Mr Corbyn was criticised, there was also praise for one-time leadership contender Yvette Cooper, who made the PM squirm fro the backbenches.

She told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has just done a £2 billion Budget U-turn in the space of about a week.

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“Last year the Government did a £4 billion U-turn in the space of five days.

“Is that why they want to abolish spring budgets? Because they just keep ripping them up?”

Labour MPs Tom Blenkinsop and Mike Gapes, long-term critics of Mr Corbyn, praised Ms Cooper, who came third in 2015’s leadership election.

Mr Gapes tweeted: “Great question by @YvetteCooperMP pity she couldn’t have had six today”.

Mr Blenkinsop said: “Thank God @YvetteCooperMP #PMQs”.

In another tweet, Mr Blenkinsop added: “May was poor, as usual, but she hasn’t suffered her worst #PMQs serious questions about holding the Govt to account need to be asked.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s performance at PMQs was blasted by his own MPs (PA)

Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell also attacked the Labour leader, tweeting: “Unless the Corbyn team actually planned for that to be a car crash the inquest should be long, hard and honest. He just can’t do it.”

Mr Corbyn was defended by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who said he little time to react to the release of the letter from the Chancellor declaring he was abandoning proposals to increase National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the self-employed.

She told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “We all know that they did this absolutely at the last minute. You can see me coming into the chamber with the letter that we got a couple of minutes before PMQs started.

The Chancellor’s backtrack was jumped on by the opposition (PA)

“So Jeremy changed tack. He asked questions about schools, he asked questions about social care and about the health service.

“He asked a question about, ‘would you like to apologise to the self-employed who you have frightened by doing this?’ Would you like to do something about the fact that many employers are forcing people to become self-employed?”

A senior Labour source insisted Mr Corbyn had held the Government to account, saying: “He highlighted the fact that the Government had U-turned in the most dramatic fashion on a central part of its Budget.

“I think we are clearly holding the Government to account. Throughout the past week, we have been hammering away on the attack on the self-employed… Labour has been central to the opposition to this..”

The source added: “Jeremy is his own kind of leader and he has demonstrated a new kind of political leadership.”

Top pic: PA