The week did not get off to a good start. The nation was in mourning after the BBC announced that it had lost its licence to air The Great British Bake-Off.
This was only made worse by the news that the show’s much-beloved hosts, Mel and Sue, would not be following the programme to its new home on Channel 4.
This devastating news was only over-shadowed by the Great British Grammar School Debate.
This week’s PMQs was an opportunity for Jeremy Corbyn to finally stop loafing around and really rise to the challenge of opposing the Prime Minister over grammar schools.
The leader of the Labour Party did what every leader of the opposition should do, and what many Labour MPs have been longing to see from him. He chose an issue which has been in the news, which unites his party behind him while making Tories squirm, and asked a series of factual questions which Theresa May struggled to answer.
Mrs May’s plan to open a new wave of grammar schools across the country, which was inadvertently leaked on the steps of Downing Street, has continued to face fierce criticism.
Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn upped his game for this week’s PMQs and came prepared with a list of quotes from people who disagree with the new policy, citing the views of the chief inspector of schools, the former education secretary Nicky Morgan, David Cameron and a teacher called John, for old times’ sake.
It worked. Mrs May was well and truly caught out and could not explain why not a single education expert backs her plans for more selection in schools.
Observers from all sides admit that Mr Corbyn had the upper hand this week. The only wound that Mrs May was able to inflict on her opponent was when she pointed out that, like her, Mr Corbyn had himself gone to a grammar school. She accused Labour politicians of “stifling ambition and opportunity” and “taking the advantage of a good education for themselves and pulling up the ladder behind them”.
“He went to a grammar school, I went to a grammar school. It is what got us to where we are today. My side may be slightly happier than his.”
The Prime Minister’s claim that grammars would give every child the high-quality education they deserved to enable them to go as far as their talents allowed has, so far, not convinced the public.
According to a new YouGov poll for The Times, just one in three people thinks that the government is right to increase the number of grammar schools and select more pupils by academic ability. A quarter want existing grammars closed, and a fifth want to keep everything as it is.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the poll shows support for grammars is highest (48 per cent) if people think they have an academically able child, but only 27 per cent want selection if their child struggles at school.
Wednesday’s PMQs is likely to be only the beginning of what could be an almighty row. And with the Conservative manifesto in 2015 promising only to allow “good schools to expand”, including grammars, there is no mandate to force this through the House of Lords (where opposition is likely to be strong).
Mr Corbyn’s triumph was, however, short lived. Praise from Labour MPs soon turned to rage at the accidental release of a ‘disunity’ list.
The Conservatives will still be keeping their heads down as Housing and Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell, revealed that the Government is considering the inclusion of rental properties in its target to build 200,000 starter homes by the end of the decade. At this week’s RESI conference, Mr Barwell warned that focusing solely on policies to encourage ownership could prevent more homes from being built. This is being viewed as a complete u-turn on the initial commitment which defined starter homes as properties that would be offered for sale at a 20% discount for first-time buyers.
Having been back for two weeks and in need of a serious rest MPs are now off on recess for their respective party conferences, starting this weekend with the Lid Dem’s trip to Brighton and UKIP’s to Bournemouth – where Nigel Farage will say goodbye (for now at least) and Diane James will be welcomed as the new leader.
When the Labour Party returns to Westminster it could be under a brand new, bespectacled, Welsh Leader (Owen Smith). But with the latest YouGov poll showing that 57% of Labour supporters plan to vote for Mr Corbyn, and only 35% to back Mr Smith, this seems increasingly unlikely. Perhaps he should get his audition tape in to Channel 4.
Plenty more Great British Debate-Offs at PMQs to look forward to then.