PMQs: Corbyn ambushes May with leaked texts on Surrey special deal

The PM floundered on the social care crisis


Theresa May’s attack lines fell flat in the Commons today as Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly asked whether a ‘special deal’ was done for Surrey council to avert its planned council tax referendum.

Discussing the crisis in NHS and social care funding, the Labour leader pointed out that:

“The crisis is so bad that until yesterday David Hodge, the Conservative leader of Surrey Council, planned to hold a referendum for a 15 per cent increase in council tax. And at the last minute it was called off. Can the Prime Minister tell the house whether or not a special deal was done for Surrey?”

When May brushed off his question, Corbyn broke with his standard approach to PMQs and asked the same question again, this time using leaked text messages from Hodge, suggesting that some kind of deal had been reached (you can read the messages here).

He called on the government to publish the memorandum of understanding mentioned in the texts, and asked if all councils would be offered the same deal as Surrey.

May stonewalled the question —falling back on a tired line about ‘Labour’s bouncing cheques’ — but seemed increasingly uncomfortable as Corbyn returned to the issue a third time.

“Mr Speaker, I wonder if it’s anything to do with the fact that both the chancellor and the health secretary represent Surrey constituencies. But Mr Speaker, there was a second text from Surrey County Council leader to Nick, and in the second text it says ‘the numbers you indicated are the numbers I understand are acceptable for me to accept and call of the R.’


He goes on to say in his text to Nick, ‘if it is possible for that info to be sent to myself I can then revert back soonest. Really want to kill this off.’ So, how much did the government offer Surrey to kill this off? And is the same sweetheart deal on offer to every council facing the social care crisis created by her government?

The Labour benches were in unusually fine voice, clearly enjoying the successful ambush of the prime minister. Although May didn’t provide an answer — and her spokesperson insists the accusation has no basis — the controversy is sure to rumble on in the coming days.

Shadow health secretary John Ashworth has called for an inquiry.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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