PMQs: Jeremy Corbyn is right about ‘gig economy’ and selective schools – but statements aren’t questions

The Labour Party leader must sharpen his remarks at PMQs


Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn made two good points at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

The first was on the tendency of companies to treat workers as ‘self-employed’ to dodge giving them full employment rights, like holiday time, sick pay and minimum wage.

As Corbyn said, in response to the government’s U-turn on hiking National Insurance for the self-employed:

“I hope that in his statement later today, the Chancellor will address the question of injustice [sic] of many people forced into bogus self-employment by unscrupulous companies. 

Because many of them force their workers to become self-employed, thus avoiding employers’ National Insurance contributions.

It is a grossly unfair system where those in self-employment pay some National Insurance, employers do not and benefit from it. That is a gross injustice.”

He’s right. Self-employment has boomed in recent years, with an 88 per cent rise between 2001 and 2015, compared to 25 per cent for full-time employment.

Many on zero-hours contracts – which figures out today show rose 13 per cent last year to 905,000 – are considered self-employed, with ridiculous claims by Deliveroo and Uber that each of their couriers is an independent business, rather than what they plainly are, which is an employee or worker.

Trade unions are pressing the matter in the courts, while the government and opposition parties have launched reviews and inquiries into the so-called gig economy. (See this excellent piece by former Left Foot Forward editor James Bloodworth.)

Sadly, Corbyn did not channel this into a direct question which would have put Theresa May on the spot or elicit some piece of information.

The same is true about selective schools. Corbyn said:

“The difference is we want a good school and a good place for every child in every school in every community.

Selective education, reintroduction of grammar schools does not achieve that. We want a staircase for all, not a ladder for the few.

What she has to do is address the issues of injustice and inequality in our society and a government that’s dedicated to widening the gap, not helping the hard-up or those who are working self-employed to try and make ends meet and not getting access to any benefits.”

Again, he’s right. All the evidence shows selective schools help a minority of relatively well-off children and do nothing or worse for everyone else. (Read more here.) But as you can see, Corbyn doesn’t follow this up with a direct question for the PM.

If the Labour leader could transform his sentiments and positions into sharp questions for Theresa May, he could play a more solid role in holding the government to account at PMQs and carry forward his mission of ‘taking on the Tories’.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: WATCH: First round of IndyRef2? May and Robertson clash on Scotland and Article 50 at PMQs

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