Anna Soubry’s attempt to show what a ‘joke’ Labour is on Newsnight totally backfired

Anna Soubry on Newsnight
Tracy Keeling

Anna Soubry branded Labour a “joke” during BBC Newsnight on 10 December, ridiculing it for not yet calling a vote of no confidence in Theresa May. But Labour’s justice secretary Richard Burgon didn’t take the Tory MP’s attack lying down.

Soubry spent much of the interview laughing at Labour’s expense. But she didn’t appear to find much funny by the end of it.

You’re a “joke”

Soubry and Burgon joined presenter Emily Maitlis on Newsnight following another chaotic day in parliament. Prime minister Theresa May delayed a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal in order to go back to Brussels. The PM is hoping she can get “further assurances” on elements of the deal that might persuade MPs to back it.

On Newsnight, though, Soubry took aim at Labour for not calling a vote of no confidence in the prime minister after the delay. She laughed at an explanation from Burgon on the matter, saying:

they’re a complete joke, the opposition… in this time of absolute national crisis, when you need a good strong opposition to challenge government… I mean Corbyn and the rest of that frontbench are an absolute disgrace. Why haven’t they talked about any move, by way of example, to have a vote of no confidence?


…I say bring it on; I’ll be supporting the government.

Maitlis backed Soubry up on this, going so far as to say that the Tory MP was the real “opposition” in the studio for supporting such a vote. Clearly, the fact that Soubry said she would vote with May’s government in a vote of no confidence completely passed Maitlis by.

No, you’re a joke

As Burgon explained, however, Labour is waiting to call a vote of no confidence until it has “the maximum chance of defeating this government”. Clearly, now is not the time, as Soubry herself proved. Because even the ‘opposition’ within the Conservative Party would back the government in a vote at present.

Meanwhile, Labour’s justice secretary also pointed out that Soubry isn’t so ‘oppositional’ with the government when it introduces policies that screw over ordinary people. In fact, she generally votes with the government on those matters:

Priorities, priorities

Soubry tried to belittle Burgon for talking “rubbish” in raising issues other than Brexit. Labour needs to “grow up”, she said, and be “responsible”. But Burgon argued that “all these things are connected”. He also pointed out that Labour’s “main interest” is stopping the current Brexit deal or a no-deal scenario and securing a general election. He said this is important:

so people like Anna Soubry and Theresa May can put their record to the public, not only on the mess they’ve made of Brexit, but also on the damage they’ve done to our communities

That comment from Burgon was met with stony silence from Soubry. The thought of a nationwide vote of no confidence in the government, i.e. a general election, didn’t appear particularly amusing to the Broxtowe MP.

Perhaps she knows that, after years of cruel policies from Conservative-led governments, the possibility that people might vote the Tories out really is no joke.

Featured image via screengrab

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