It’s not uncommon for Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May to exchange blows of a Wednesday lunchtime.
But this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions took an unusual turn when Mrs May urged the Labour leader to retract – there and then – comments he had made in his very first question just moments before.
FactCheck takes a look.
What was said?
Tensions flared when Mr Corbyn mentioned the Electoral Commission’s investigation into Vote Leave – the pro-Brexit campaign group now known to have overspent in the 2016 referendum.
On Tuesday, the Electoral Commission announced it would fine Vote Leave and refer the group to the police for breaking electoral law. The Commission found “significant evidence” of joint working between Vote Leave and other Brexit campaigners – BeLeave and its founder Darren Grimes.
Mr Corbyn told the House on Wednesday:
“The transport secretary, the international trade secretary, and now the Brexit secretary, were all members of the Vote Leave campaign committee. The environment secretary was the co-chair. They’ve been referred to the police by the Electoral Commission, having refused to cooperate with the Electoral Commission.
“Will the Prime Minister guarantee that her cabinet ministers will fully cooperate with the police investigation?”
To which Mrs May replied:
“Can I say to the right honourable gentleman, I actually question the way in which he put his question. Mr Speaker, he has made an accusation in this house against members of this House…
“Mr Speaker, the right honourable gentleman has made an accusation in this House against individual members of this House and of the government, and I suggest that when he stands up, he reflects on whether or not it was correct to do so.”
She went on: “I say again to the right honourable gentleman: I think he should stand up, think very carefully about making accusations about individual members and withdraw [his comments].”
What’s going on?
The dispute seems to stem from Mr Corbyn’s choice of words.
He listed the various cabinet ministers who were involved in the Vote Leave campaign committee and said “they’ve been referred to the police by the Electoral Commission, having refused to cooperate with the Electoral Commission.”
The “they” in this sentence is important here.
A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn told FactCheck that he was talking about Vote Leave and BeLeave. According to the Electoral Commission, Vote Leave “resisted [their] investigation from the start.”
But it seems Mrs May thought Mr Corbyn was levelling the accusation directly at the transport secretary, the trade secretary and the Brexit secretary. The Commission’s report did not name any cabinet minister.
The exchange continued for several minutes, with the Prime Minister repeatedly asking the Labour leader to withdraw his comments. He declined to do so.
It’s not clear whether Mr Corbyn realised the implications of what he’d said in the moment – both he and Mrs May appeared stuck in an endless loop of repeating the same rebuttals to one another.
We asked Mr Corbyn’s spokesperson whether he’d issue a clarifying statement – he won’t.
Jeremy Corbyn used a turn of phrase that could suggest he was accusing senior cabinet figures of failing to cooperate with the Electoral Commission’s investigation into Vote Leave. The Commission has not named any cabinet minister in its recent report.
The Prime Minister called on him several times to retract his potentially-problematic comments, but Mr Corbyn declined to do so.
A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn told FactCheck that he was referring to Vote Leave and BeLeave. They said that Mr Corbyn will not be making a clarifying statement.