Jeremy Corbyn is getting the hang of things at PMQs three years into the job
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
There is one phrase that stands out from the latest clash at Prime Minister's Questions. It was when Jeremy Corbyn attacked Theresa May on the controversial Universal Credit programme. The Labour leader said: "The prime minister is not challenging the burning injustices in our society, she’s pouring petrol on the crisis. When will she stop inflicting misery on the people of this country?"
The Leader of the Opposition is getting better at these exchanges. Previously, he used PMQs to fire off some tirades to be used for social media. The questions became long and rambling soliloquys, and he looked uneasy - as though he was a disgruntled headmaster telling off petulant schoolchildren.
On Wednesday, Mr Corbyn celebrated three years as Labour leader. And after three years in the top job, he is starting to look more comfortable at the despatch box in the Commons.
"There was a time when Jeremy Corbyn struggled with the tempo of Prime Minister’s questions," the Daily Mirror argues, "He ranted when he should have been calm and was long-winded when he should have been concise." He has improved significantly, and showing that he is mastering these weekly exchanges with Mrs May. The Mirror adds that PMQs this week was "almost a stroll" for the Labour leader as he fired statistic after statistic at the prime minister.
The same paper's Kevin Maguire praised Mr Corbyn for doing "his demolition job with efficiency and passion". The Labour leader used the truth, and the truth hurts Mrs May. "His anger was as genuine as her thunderous face in a brutal Prime Minister's Question Time and the Conservative wall of noise emphasised a raw political divide," Maguire writes.
The Guardian's John Crace argues that Mr Corbyn has finally found a breakthrough in PMQs, after years of "searching for a format that might cut through with the audience at home". He struck gold by opting for his own version of University Challenge.
"What did the National Farmers' Union, the Federation of Small Businesses, the National Audit Office, the National Housing Federation, Gingerbread and the Royal Society of Arts all have in common?", the Labour leader asked.
The prime minister grinned a nervous smile, appearing flummoxed by the quizmaster. All that she could muster was that they were all organisations that "give excellent service" to the areas they represent, and to which the government listened.
It's good, but it's not right. The answer Mr Corbyn was looking for was that they were telling the government Universal Credit is flawed and it is failing hundreds of thousands of people. He tried again: In 2010, the government had promised in 2010 to lift 350,000 children out of poverty - does she still stand by that figure?
Well, she didn't answer that question. Instead, the prime minister deflected and used the old Tory adage: if in doubt, blame Labour. She said Universal Credit was introduced because of the failures left by Labour. The Tory leader tried a new tactic of her own, and an old tactic of her Labour counterpart, by quoting a member of the public. She quoted an alleged satisfied customer of Universal Credit called Roberta, whose work coach had "found me my dream job".
Mr Corbyn cited the National Audit Office, who said that Universal Credit would create hardship, force more people to use food banks and "could end up costing the system even more". The prime minister responded with an anecdote about a single mother who came to see her when Labour was in office, and she wanted to work but was told she would be "better off on benefits". Facts v anecdotes - the Labour leader looked stronger.
He moved on to Brexit, calling the government's Brexit negotiations an "abject failure" and remarking: "I can see that by the sullen faces behind her, and that's not just the ERG group it's the whole lot of them." In return, Mrs May said she was tackling injustices, and referred to Labour's recent internal troubles. She ended by quoting Labour MP Chuka Umunna's claims that his party was "institutionally racist".
Jeremy Corbyn is starting to get the hang of PMQs, three years into the job. It appears that the prime minister and the Labour leader have swapped tactics - and Mr Corbyn has come out stronger because of it.