Prime minister’s questions: a shouty, jeery, very occasionally useful advert for British politics. Here’s what you need to know from the latest session in POLITICO’s weekly run-through.
What they sparred about: It was the last PMQs before Christmas … and Keir Starmer used the moment to try to exploit Tory divisions over Rishi Sunak’s flagship Rwanda legislation.
Getting into the pantomime spirit: Starmer delivered a roll call of Sunak’s divided Tory MPs — reading out various anonymous critical quotes in the media from MPs about Sunak’s competence and asking them to put up their hands if they said those words. The PM said Starmer should hear what his MPs have to say about him.
Festive punning: Starmer’s aides have clearly been working on the festive references, declaring of Sunak that “they’ve found the donkey for the nativity” and asking how his invite list was looking for No. 10’s Christmas party next week.
They do know it’s Christmas: Yes, the Labour leader really did use one of his six questions, to the actual U.K. prime minister, to ask about a Christmas party.
The serious bits: The Labour leader used his lines and jokes about division in the Conservatives to try to segue to a serious point: chiefly that the PM is indulging his backbenchers rather than focusing on governing the country. Once finished with the puns and the pantomime stuff, he pointed out that children in homeless families are at a record high and that a “cocooned” Sunak is oblivious to Britain’s problems.
Even more seriously: The SNP’s Westminster Leader Stephen Flynn asked Sunak what his Christmas message was for children dying in Gaza — and argued it is shameful the U.K. abstained in a U.N. vote on a cease-fire in the Israel/Hamas conflict. Sunak insisted he wants a “sustainable” cease-fire.
Newsline alert: DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson got a question, which he used to ask if Sunak is willing to legislate to address his party’s concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol. The PM indicated he is, which implies a deal that could see the DUP lift its boycott of Stormont may be close.
Totally non-scientific scores on the doors: Starmer opted to bring a low energy, jokey, last day of term vibe to the final PMQs before Christmas. None of the gags really landed, however. The under pressure Sunak, who tried to keep things serious, might be relieved.
Sunak 6/10 … Starmer 4/10 … Christmassy vibes 10/10.