PMQs scorecard: Unruly pupils Starmer and Sunak trade blows over collapsing schools

Prime minister’s questions: a shouty, jeery, very occasionally useful advert for British politics. Here’s what you need to know from today’s session in POLITICO’s weekly run-through.

What they sparred about: Schools, concrete, and money. Whose fault is it that 156 schools have dangerous RAAC concrete? Labour says the Conservatives, the Conservatives say Labour. Welcome back, folks. 

What Westminster is on about: Concrete is the word of the day, with most of Westminster also talking about the issue of crumbling school buildings. The Department for Education on Wednesday finally published the list of schools with potentially dodgy structures, and Starmer named many of them in the house.

Biggest Labour cheer of the day: Starmer described the scandal as something “you’d expect from cowboy builders” not “the cowboys running the country.” And the crowd goes wild.

Second biggest Labour cheer of the day: Starmer noted that the education secretary (of telling a reporter she’s “doing a good fucking job” fame) approved a £34 million refurbishment for her own department, and ask Sunak if he can explain “why a blank check for a Conservative minister’s office is better use of taxpayer’s money than stopping schools collapsing.” 

Biggest Conservative cheer of the day: Sunak accused Starmer of jumping on the “political bandwagon,” arguing that the leader of the opposition had not mentioned the sorry state of schools in parliamentary debates on spending review, or in a big speech earlier this year on education.

Er, not so fast: The latter isn’t quite true, though, with Starmer referencing “school buildings start[ing] to crumble” when speaking in Gravesend in July. 

Second biggest Conservative cheer of the day: Sunak described the former Labour Building Schools for the Future policy — scrapped by the Tories — as “time-consuming and expensive, just like the Labour party.” 

The problem with cheers: Is that there were too many of them, according to Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who had to interject. “I know it’s the first session back, I understand people are excited to be back at school, but we expect better behavior,” he said. Simmer down, children. 

Mind your language: It wouldn’t be the first Wednesday back without a language warning. SNP MP Chris Law described Labour and Conservatives as “two cheeks of the same arse,” and the speaker wasn’t happy.

Totally nonscientific scores on the doors: Everyone is excited to be back and possibly over-excited by the late summer heatwave. A change of pace from the pre-recess PMQs, only because we actually had some stats to accompany the jibes this week.

Stats-heavy Sunak 5/10 … Stats-heavy Starmer 6/10 … respect for school teachers that have to deal with this level of shouting all week … 100/10.