clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Watch: British Parliament collapses in giggles after a conservative MP mocks Jeremy Corbyn

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

When Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour Party, went to give a speech to the House of Commons on Tuesday on behalf of staying in the European Union, he probably didn't expect to be drowned out in peals of laughter.

"Last week I was in Brussels," Corbyn began, "meeting European leaders and heads of socialist parties. And one of them said to me…"

Christopher Pincher, a Conservative Parliament member, cuts him off, yelling, "Who are you?"

The Tory members explode in laughter for a good 35 seconds. A flailing Corbyn says, "No, no," as he attempts to shut them up. You can see Andy Burnham, a high-level Labour leader who ran against Corbyn in the 2015 Labour leadership election, smirking over his shoulder.

It's not an atypical moment of the UK's famously raucous parliamentary debate, but it's a bit revealing — if only in terms of the contempt the British elite has for Corbyn.

Corbyn's views are essentially a throwback to the unreconstructed socialism — the real thing, way beyond Bernie Sanders — of the old-school Labour Party, which used to be much more into the idea of the government controlling huge sectors of the economy. Corbyn won the 2015 by a fairly overwhelming margin, in spite of unified opposition from the Labour leadership.

While Corbyn is popular inside his party — a recent poll found that 53 percent of Labour Party members support his continued leadership — many upper-level Labour leaders still worry he will lead the party into disaster.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, sees him as (simultaneously) a menace to British society and a walking punchline.

This is why the Conservatives, who are currently at the brink of their own political civil war over a proposal for the UK to quit the EU, were able to unite, if briefly, in laughing at Pincher's joke. As the Telegraph's Parliament correspondent, Michael Deacon, puts it:

It’s a remarkable achievement. Even when senior Tories are openly savaging each other on the floor of the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn still manages to end up the butt of the joke.