Theresa May has mocked Jeremy Corbyn as an “unscrupulous boss” who exploited Labour Party rules to further his own career as the two clashed for the first time at Prime Minister’s Questions.
May won loud cheers from the Conservative benches as she sought to twist the knife in the Labour leader over the turmoil in his party’s ranks.
“I am interested that he refers to the situation of some workers who might have some job insecurity and potentially unscrupulous bosses,” the prime minister told Corbyn.
“I suspect that there are many members on the opposition benches who might be familiar with an unscrupulous boss.
“A boss who doesn’t listen to his workers, a boss who requires some of his workers to double their workload and maybe a boss who exploits the rules to further his own career. Remind him of anybody?”
As Corbyn — who is facing a leadership challenge from Owen Smith — complained there were “many people in this country struggling with insecure jobs”, he was met with raucous laughter from Tory MPs.
The Labour leader angrily hit back, saying: “I know this is very funny for Conservative members but I do not suppose [there are] too many Conservative MPs who have to go to a food bank in order to supplement their family table.”
May said: “Labour may be about to have several months of fighting and tearing itself apart. The Conservative Party will be spending those months bring this country back together.”
In an combative performance, she also sought to highlight Labour differences over Trident, pointedly praising the 141 Labour MPs who “put the national interest first” and voted in favour of renewing the nuclear deterrent in Monday’s Commons vote.
There were echoes of Margaret Thatcher, as May took Corbyn to task after he said that “six years of Government austerity” had failed.
“He talks about austerity, I call it living within our means,” she replied. “He talks about austerity, but actually it is about not saddling our children and grandchildren with significant debts to come.”
However, she sidestepped a question from the Labour leader when he sought to challenge her about comments by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling black people “piccaninnies” and questioning the motives of US President Barack Obama because of his “part-Kenyan” heritage.
Corbyn also questioned May about her commitment to home ownership, ending insecure work.
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