Theresa May has savaged Jeremy Corbyn in her first Prime Minister's Questions, comparing him to an "unscrupulous boss" who doesn't listen to his own workers.
May, who became Britain's second ever female PM last week, appeared calm and assured as she went head-to-head with the embattled Labour leader on Wednesday.
The deafening cheers from the Tory MPs behind her stood in stark contrast to the silence from the Labour benches that greeted Corbyn's comments. In fact the toughest questions for the ex–home secretary came from her own backbenchers.
In her most cutting jibe, May seized on the lack of support for Corbyn from within his own party after he asked about "people that are worried about their future in work".
"You refer to the situation of some workers who might have some job insecurity and potentially unscrupulous bosses," she said.
"I suspect there are many members on the opposition benches who might be familiar with an unscrupulous boss – a boss who doesn't listen to his workers, a boss who requires some of his workers to double their workload, and maybe even a boss who exploits the rules to further his own career."
Leaning forward into the microphone, she added: "Remind him of anybody?"
The Tory benches erupted into whoops and cheers at the remark while Corbyn sat stony-faced amid glum-looking Labour MPs.
Corbyn, who was elected by a landslide last summer, is being challenged for the leadership by Owen Smith after MPs overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence in him. So many shadow ministers have now resigned from the front bench that several have been forced to take on multiple jobs.
His scattergun questions to May ranged from a demand for an inquiry into alleged police brutality during the 1984 Orgreave miners' strike to queries on home ownership, job security, and foreign secretary Boris Johnson's past comments.
Corbyn said he wanted PMQs to be a time to "debate seriously the issues that face our country and our place in the world". But he failed to land a glove on the new PM, who batted his questions away with ease.
May told him: "I look forward to the exchanges you and I will have – and I hope we'll be having those exchanges over this despatch box for many years to come."
Corbyn grew infuriated with Conservative MPs making light of his own leadership turmoil when he was asking about job insecurity. "We're sent here to represent people and there are many people in this country struggling with insecure jobs with low wages," he said.
"I know this is very funny for all Conservative members, but I don't suppose that there are too many Conservative MPs who have to go to a food bank in order to supplement their family table every week."
May insisted the government was on the side of people who struggled to make ends meet. But she said: "The answer is not the Labour party's answer of unlimited, uncapped welfare for people.
"The answer for people who are in work and who are struggling, and the answer to those people who want to get into work, is to have a strong economy – an economy that delivers jobs and that delivers well-paid jobs."
She added: "The Labour party may be about to spend several months fighting and tearing itself apart. The Conservative party will be spending those months bringing this country back together."
Her 15-minute exchange with Corbyn ended to loud cries of "More!" from Tory MPs. Instead it was up to backbenchers to ask the toughest questions of May.
In the wake of Britain's vote to leave the EU, Conservative MP Edward Leigh asked whether she would reject Britain staying in the single market and instead chase free trade deals with EU countries.
May said she wanted to negotiate the "right deal and the best deal of trade in goods and services for the British people".
Tory MP Philip Davies, another keen Eurosceptic, said many people had voted to leave the EU based on concerns over immigration. He pressed May to confirm that when Britain finally did leave, "she will insist on keeping her original promise to getting the immigration figures down to tens of thousands".
The PM said the referendum vote had made clear that Britons wanted control over freedom of movement from the EU. "I also remain absolutely firm in my belief that we need to bring net migration down to sustainable levels – the government believes that is tens of thousands, it will take some time to get there."
And Labour MP Catherine McKinnell asked May about a potential third runway at Heathrow Airport. "Will she do better than dithering Dave [Cameron] and give us a decision without delay?" she said.
May said the position had not changed, adding: "The cabinet and government will be making a decision on this in the proper way in due course."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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