The PM only had to look at the Labour leader to re­alise that life could be a lot worse

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Michael Dea­con

Things may look bleak for Jeremy Cor­byn, but he still has one MP he can count on. As the Labour leader en­tered the Com­mons, Dennis Skin­ner – the oc­to­ge­nar­ian stal­wart of Old Labour – leapt from his seat, strode across the floor, and, in front of the en­tire Par­lia­men­tary Labour Party, shook him warmly by the hand. It was a touch­ing mo­ment of fel­low feel­ing and kind­ness.

Or at least, it would have been, if Mr Skin­ner hadn’t then turned, glared at the for­mer mem­bers of Mr Cor­byn’s shadow cabi­net, and flicked a V-sign at them. We knew the EU ref­er­en­dum bat­tle would dam­age the Tories. We didn’t know it would shat­ter Labour.

The House of Com­mons was sit­ting for the first time since the country voted for Brexit. De­spite the in­ternecine war­fare of re­cent months, Tory MPs from both sides of the cam­paign seemed re­mark­ably chip­per. Per­haps they were just en­joy­ing the tur­moil of the shadow cabi­net res­ig­na­tions. Be­fore dis­cus­sion of Brexit could get under way, a new MP for Labour had to be sworn in: Rosena Allin-Khan, Sadiq Khan’s suc­ces­sor in Toot­ing. “Give her a job!” hooted a Tory back­bencher at Mr Cor­byn.

The Labour leader did not look amused. Prob­a­bly be­cause at this rate he might have to.

By con­trast, David Cameron – who on his ar­rival was cheered to the rafters by Tory MPs – seemed al­most breezy. Three days ear­lier, a bro­ken-look­ing Prime Min­is­ter had an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion along­side his tear­ful wife; yet now he was calm, gen­er­ous and good-hu­moured. Defeat, it ap­peared, hadn’t crushed him – if any­thing, it had re­leased him.

Mr Cameron re­minded the Com­mons that the process of ex­tri­cat­ing Bri­tain from the EU would be a job for the next prime min­is­ter. “Where is he?” shouted voices from the SNP and Labour. Boris John­son, as it hap­pened, was ab­sent. Michael Gove lurked be­hind the Speaker’s Chair.

Mr Cor­byn, mean­while, was still cling­ing grimly to the mis­ery of of­fice.

Re­mark­ably, he even used his re­marks on the EU to scold his Labour op­po­nents. “Our country is di­vided,” he snapped, “and will thank nei­ther the benches in front of me – nor those

be­hind– for in­dulging in in­ter­nal,

Hi­lary Benn was called to ask a ques­tion on Brexit. Labour MPs cheered him. Mr Cor­byn ig­nored them

fac­tional ma­noeu­vring at this time!” “Re­sign!” shouted MPs. And not all of them were Tory. Yes, we re­ally were watch­ing a Labour leader and his own MPs lay into each other in pub­lic.

I glanced at the back benches. Chris Bryant – un­til Sun­day, the shadow leader of the House – sucked in his cheeks tartly. Hi­lary Benn – un­til Sun­day, the shadow for­eign sec­re­tary – folded his arms and sniffed.

In due course, Mr Benn was called to ask a ques­tion on Brexit. Labour MPs cheered him lustily. Mr Cor­byn ig­nored them and scrib­bled crossly in his notepad. When he him­self had been called, his MPs sat in glow­er­ing si­lence.

Mr Cameron seems hap­pier for hav­ing given up his job. I won­der if Mr Cor­byn no­ticed.

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