PMQs scorecard: Sunak bags a win with new help for Post Office victims

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’s going on? Westminster has (finally) been gripped this week by the Post Office Horizon scandal, which saw hundreds of staff falsely accused of stealing by the Post Office after shortfalls thanks to an IT failure. It’s taken an ITV drama to get Westminster to fully sit up, and the government has spent the past few days scrambling to make things right.

What Rishi wants to talk about: Sunak kicked off PMQs with something up his sleeve — new primary legislation to overturn the wrongful convictions of former postmasters and sub-postmasters who were victims of the scandal. The PM also announced extra compensation, with “new upfront payments of up £75,000 to the vital GLO group of postmasters.” That’s the group of 555 postmasters who successfully challenged the Post Office in the High Court.

Which parties look bad in this scandal? Pretty much all of them. And the Scottish National Party’s Stephen Flynn was keen to make hay. Reeling off those he reckons are to blame, Flynn pointed the finger at former Labour PM Tony Blair, ex-Post Office Minister (and now Liberal Democrat Leader) Ed Davey, and ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, “who now hides in the House of Lords as a baron.” Flynn added with a flourish: “The reality is sub-postmasters never stood a chance against our establishment, did they? This isn’t a plague on all their houses, this is a plague on this House itself.”

What Keir Starmer wants to talk about: The Labour leader tried a different tack. After voicing his support for the new Post Office cash, Starmer asked what happened to the “ambitious Tory MP” who reportedly warned then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson against enacting the government’s controversial Rwanda asylum plan in 2020. Spoiler alert: the BBC reported last week that that MP was Sunak. But the PM has denied that this ever happened.

Biggest Labour cheer: “Which member should we listen to, the one before us today, or the one who used to believe in something?” asked Starmer. Even Sunak laughed at that one, but we can imagine it stung a bit.

Happy new election year: Sunak and Starmer are both in full campaign mode as the election year gets going. “Doesn’t the country deserve so much better than a prime minister who simply doesn’t get Britain,” asked Starmer in the red corner. Punching back in the blue corner, Sunak urged voters to “stick with us to deliver the long-term change this country needs” instead of going “back to square one” with Labour. Gloves on boys!

Totally non-scientific scores on the doors: Rishi Sunak actually had something of substance to announce and so he bags a clear win. He gets 7/10 for that — but not full marks because, well, it probably shouldn’t have taken an ITV drama to get the prime minister to do something. Keir Starmer went through the motions, bagging a very Starmer-esque 5/10.