Prime minister’s questions: a shouty, jeery, very occasionally useful advert for British politics. Here’s what you need to know from this week’s session in POLITICO U.K.’s weekly run-through.
What they sparred about: After a brief — and somewhat half-hearted — grilling on the state of other public services, Labour’s Keir Starmer neatly segued on to the key focus of controversial attack ads his party has been pushing: crime. Taking aim at the prime minister on sentencing laws and court backlogs, Starmer accused Rishi Sunak of “letting violent criminals go free.”
New nickname alert: A prepared Sunak had clearly workshopped a new nickname for Starmer. “That’s why they call him Sir Softie — soft on crime, soft on criminals,” Sunak said, pointing out that Labour voted against the government’s sentencing reforms. Jury’s out on whether that one survives to next week.
Biggest elephant in the room: The standards commissioner ethics probe into Sunak, after Speaker Lindsay Hoyle wrote to the parties warning them not to comment on the ongoing inquiry into the PM’s wife’s stake in a childcare firm that received a boost in the budget.
Also not mentioned: Not a single MP asked the prime minister about today’s inflation and cost of living figures, which show that food prices are soaring at their fastest rate in 45 years.
Biggest cheer: Much of the Commons roared with glee when they were reminded of the Scottish National Party’s woes as its Westminster chief Stephen Flynn rose for his usual pair of questions. Sunak largely opted not to gloat over the party’s legal drama, and said the U.K. government will “motor on” with its priorities. Was that a subtle reference to the luxury motorhome which was seized by police probing the SNP?
Helpful intervention of the week: PMQs started with a cutting question at the expense of a government — the Welsh one. Taking aim at the Labour-run Welsh government’s asylum policy — the government there is providing a small fund to asylum seekers housed in Wales — Tory backbencher Chris Clarkson urged the PM to never contemplate “such a daft idea.” Sunak was, predictably, happy to oblige.
Totally non-scientific scores: Both men hit the theme they wanted to hit by accusing the other of being soft on crime. Neither were particularly convincing.
Sunak 5/10 … Starmer 5/10 … Ability to avoid the elephant in the room 10/10.