IN FULL: Corbyn tackles May in last PMQs before the election
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn today clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions for what could be the last time ever.
The weekly PMQs duel was the last before Parliament is dissolved ahead of the general election on June 8.
Labour is in full campaign mode on the NHS crisis today – a favourite topic of the party leader – vowing to end the 1% pay cap for nurses and midwives.
But with polls giving the Tories a huge lead, there was also plenty of fodder for Mrs May after a dramatic first week of the campaign.
Watch the full six-question exchange between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn above or follow blow-by-blow updates as they happened below.
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The last Prime Minister’s before an election is strange cross between a battle scene and a leaving do.
For some MPs it is a wistful moment as they look back on several years’ service, for others it is the chance to daub the warpaint for the campaign ahead.
Imagine a retirement party organised by Freddy Krueger and you will have some idea of the atmosphere in the Commons.
Given Labour’s dire poll ratings, this was always going to be a struggle for Jeremy Corbyn.
The Tories are already scenting not just victory but a massacre when the country goes to the polls on June 8.
With a total absence of class, their MPs waved goodbye at the Labour benches, mocked Corbyn relentlessly and laughed at those whose plight he raised.
PMQs has finally come to a close after nearly an hour – which we believe may well be a record.
The second half was hardly a challenge for the Prime Minister. She fielded easy questions from many departing Tories.
Stay with us – we’ll be bringing round-ups and analysis.
Douglas Carswell, who is standing down after quitting Ukip, asks what reassurance the PM can give to the 4million people who backed the party in 2015.
It’s an invitation, basically for them to vote for the Tories instead.
“People want to see control of our laws, control of our borders,” the PM replies. She says she’ll deliver that.
Things are STILL going with words from departing MPs.
One is Angela Watkinson, a Tory stepping down, who puts in an easy question about voting Tory.
The PM repeats her “coalition of chaos” line (see earlier).
Tory MP Mike Wood is cheered as he returns to the Commons after nearly dying of sepsis.
“Doctors and nurses…. saved my life in January,” he says, naming the hospital.
He calls for more action to reduce deaths from sepsis “including awareness raising… and a national registry.”
Labour MP Grahame Morris asks the PM: “Why is she running scared of televised leadership debates?”
The PM – who’s being followed by the Mirror Chicken on the campaign – says she does face TV debates every week.
And this is one of them, she says.
PMQs has now been going for 50 minutes.
It’s partly because so many MPs are saying farewell.
They include Tory Brexiteer Sir Gerald Howarth.
He makes a final plea to protect the armed forces so they may “defend and protect the people of this glorious sceptered isle!
Lib Dem leader tells May: "Your party has never been nastier!”
That comment (below) is followed immediately by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron – who faces roars from other MPs.
He does not mention Mr Ward.
Red in the face, he instead says the PM has “closed the door on desperate child refugees.”
He says: “Twenty years ago she berated the Conservative Party for being the nasty party. But her party has never been nastier!”
He also berates the opposition provided by Jeremy Corbyn.
But Mrs May asks how he can talk about opposition when he has adopted David Ward as a candidate.
Tory MP Eric Pickles also makes his final contribution before stepping down.
He goes not into sycophancy but an attack on David Ward, a controversial Lib Dem candidate facing claims of anti-semitism.
“Does she share my disgust that a former member of this house, criticised by the Home Affairs select committee, is now the official candidate in Bradford East for the Liberal Democrats?”
The PM starts by saying: “Can I pay tribute to my honourable friend – my chum – for the service he has given.”
But she adds: “I think people will be rightly disappointed to see the Liberal Democrats readopt a candidate with a questionable record on anti-semitism.”
Brexit-mad MP Peter Lilley, a Tory, is another Conservative leaving the House of Commons.
He declares: “I am stepping down… because of her.
“I have confidence the country will be safe after the election under her strong and stable leadership.
“I wish the right honourable lady and members in this house that I love: God speed!”
One MP, Steven Paterson of the SNP, tells the horror story of a constituent whose benefits were docked.
He was judged not to be eligible by Atos after being late for his appointment, the MP says.
“There have been some issues around the way that system has operated,” the PM confesses.
Tory MP Sir Alan Haselhurst makes his final contribution after 44 years in the Commons.
He agreed to step down at the age of 79 after initially saying he wanted to stay.
The PM pays tribute to his service, including as deputy speaker.
“He has been a stalwart and a champion of the people of Saffron Waldon over 40 years,” she says.
Decision on betting machines crackdown will only be after the election
Labour MP Stephen Timms asks the PM to “show some leadership” and cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting machines from £100 to £2.
There has been a consultation and there will be a government response, says the PM.
It will only be after the general election.
Chris Stephens of the SNP condemns the “rape clause”, which makes women who’ve been raped fill in a lengthy form to prove their ordeal if they need to claim tax credits for more than 2 children.
The PM says: “This is an incredibly sensible issue. We looked at it very carefully, we consulted very carefully on it.”
She adds there is a “principle of fairness” behind the two-child policy.
Mr Stephens is not happy. He shakes his head and scowls. The SNP has pushed this issue relentlessly.
It’s the turn of Tory MP Byron Davies – who has the slimmest majority in the country, just 27 in the Welsh seat of Byron.
He pleads for his own job! He asks if the PM agrees electing a Conservative MP is the best way to strong and stable government.
In a huge shock… she agrees.
Labour MP Rachael Maskell says Nestle announced 300 job losses yesterday – “devastating for workers, their families, and the community”.
York’s skilled jobs have been replaced by “low-wage, insecure work”.
She calls for a “special deal to save these jobs”, half of them in York which she represents, like there was with Nissan in Sunderland.
The PM says: “Nestle have said this is not a decision that was affected by leaving the EU.”
But she says the Business Secretary will speak to senior Nestle representatives later today to assess the situation.
“There are various ways in which JobCentre plus can help,” she adds.
It’s now the turn of Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, who is standing down ahead of the election.
He says neighbouring Labour MPs in Middlesbrough are great champions of the steel industry. Shouldn’t they stay, he asks?
She points out Mr Blenkinsop quit due to “significant and irreconcilable differences with the leadership.”
Theresa May says she visited a steelworks in Wales only yesterday.
She claims she will “continue to” support the steel industry.
That’s despite a string of Mirror exposes showing how foreign steel has been used in major defence contracts.
The Prime Minister has once again refused to rule out scrapping the triple lock on pensions.
This guarantees the state pension increases each year by inflation, average earnings or 2.5% – whichever is highest.
Labour has guaranteed it to 2025.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson says: “It’s a yes or a no – and the Prime Minister failed to answer!
“Pensioners across this land are right to conclude that the Prime Minister plans to ditch the triple lock on the state pension.
“The only reason they won’t guarantee it is because they want to cut pensions!
“Isn’t the message… you cannot trust the Tories on your pension.”
PMQs ends with a tirade from Corbyn – and a matching one from Theresa May.
He cries: “They are strong against the weak and weak against the strong!
“Far from building a strong economy, schools and the NHS are being cut. People can’t build homes. Millions can’t make ends meet.
“The election on June 8 is a choice. Between a Conservative government for the few and a Labour government who will stand up for all of our people!”
Theresa May hits back: “If he wants to talk about the NHS maybe he should talk about Labour’s custodianship of the NHS in Wales.
“There is somewhere where the NHS has been cut. It’s in Wales, under the Labour party.”
She continues: “He is right. In something over six weeks,” two people will return to the despatch box.
“The only question is where will we be standing. Who will be Prime Minister of this great country?
“Every vote for him is a vote for a chaotic Brexit. Every vote for me is a cote to strengthen our hand and negotiating the best deal for Britain.
“Every vote for me is a vote for a strong economy with the benefits felt across the country.”
She repeats her unfounded claim that Corbyn will lead a “coalition of chaos.”
She ends, to thunderous Tory cheers: “Every vote for me is a vote for strong and stable leadership in the national interest, building a stronger and more secure future for this country!”
A fifth writer, Sybil, says is scared to go into hospital.
“Isn’t Sybil right to be frightened about the future of the NHS so long as this government remains in office?”
The PM hits back that funding “is only possible with a strong economy… and a strong and stable government.”
Boris Johnson looks on from the sidelines.
Now the PM starts bringing out her trump cards – pointing at Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.
“She has directed her followers to a website. I like Corbyn but!”
“’But I’ve heard he wants to increase taxes… But I’ve heard he’s a terrorist sympathiser’”.
She says the website is right to be worried.
“Even his own supporters know he’s not fit to run this country!”
Corbyn moves on to his fourth voter. There’s a pattern here.
“If I were you I’d listen to what Maureen had to say,” he tells jeering Tory MPs.
Maureen had her pension delayed by more than a year thanks to short-notice changes that affected millions of women in their 50s.
“We have been treated disgustingly,” she writes.
The PM replies there’ll be a clear choice between Labour, which rose the basic state pension by 75p in one year, and Tories ensuring state pensioners are £1,250 better off.
“Yesterday we saw we had finally emerged from Labour’s economic crash,” she thunders, referring to borrowing figures (which still showed the national debt is above £1.7trillion).
Under Labour we’d see the economy crash all over again, she says.
Corbyn moves on to Laura, a teacher, who warns school funding is being cut.
Schools are writing begging letters as 5,000 have funding reduced by 3% – while cash is lavished on free schools.
“Is the PM still denying the fact that funding for each pupil is still being cut?” he says.
Theresa May says Corbyn wants to “take everybody down to the lowest common denominator”.
“Labour isn’t slashing school budgets! Labour isn’t putting money into pet projects!” he hits back.
“We don’t want an education system that relies on begging letters from schools.”
Theresa May points out Corbyn didn’t address her points about defence. (He didn’t have to – she’s the one being questioned).
And she says Christopher has a choice at the general election – a Labour government would hurt family incomes.
Corbyn moves onto his second writer – Andy, a dad-of-three, has all his children in their mid-20s still living in the family home.
“Don’t we need a housing strategy that deals with it?” he demands.
The PM shoots back: “Under the last Labour government, housebuilding starts fell by 45%.
“The number of social rented homes under a Labour government fell by 420,000.”
She says there’s “almost twice as much council housing being built as under a Labour government”.
This last number is very deceptive because in overall terms it’s tiny. Council housing, new-built, barely exists these days. It’s all about social housing.
Jeremy Corbyn has started talking – to jeers and cheers from Tory benches.
“When I became leader of the opposition 18 months ago…” he begins.
Tory MPs shout: “MOOOOOORE!” They think he’ll lead Labour to collapse.
Corbyn presses on: “Instead of speaking to hand-picked audiences who can’t ask questions, I hope the PM won’t mind if she answers some questions today from the public.”
He begins with a man named Christopher, whose husband has had only a 1% wage increase for years.
What is the PM’s message for her?
This is a return to the tactic he used in his first PMQs – taking his questions directly from voters.
Tory MP Richard Drax gets in quickly with an attack on the Socialist Campaign for Labour Victory.
They wanted to disband MI5, he thunders.
She is delighted. She agrees, saying Mr Corbyn has refused to commit to renew Trident or push the nuclear button.
“Keeping our country safe is the first duty of a Prime Minister. He is simply not up to the job.”
The PM uses her position at the despatch box to give a big plug to Andy Street.
He is the Tories’ candidate for West Midlands metro mayor – one of the biggest battlegrounds of the local elections next Thursday.
Labour’s candidate is Sion Simon and the result will be examined closely ahead of the general election.
PMQs has started with a question on the economy in the West Midlands, where the PM says employment has risen by 180,000 since 2010.
She’s straight in there on the economy.
“You can only have strong public services when you have the strong and stable leadership that delivers a strong economy.”
Tory PM Michael Fabricant adds “this nation needs a strong and stable government”.
There have been big cheers for Theresa May as she enters the House of Commons.
We’re about to start.
Welsh Questions are loud and raucous – far more than you’d usually expect.
Here is the line-up for the final PMQs before the general election.
These are the MPs apart from Jeremy Corbyn, and SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, who will get to ask a question.
Among them is Tom Blenkinsop, one of 12 Labour MPs standing down. He quit due to differences with Corbyn.