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: In a world at war … Keir Starmer opted to focus on the internal one in the Conservatives rather than the serious stuff. The Labour leader was handed a gift Wednesday morning as Tory MP Simon Clarke issued a broadside against Sunak in the Telegraph, urging Conservative colleagues to get rid of their leader. Starmer said all of this showed Sunak’s party is just too consumed by infighting to govern, and hit out at the “longest episode of Eastenders ever put to film.” Fan of the soaps, Sir Keir?
Original: Sunak hit back by reeling off his greatest hits when it comes to attacking the opposition leader; telling the Commons that Starmer took the knee (true, following George Floyd’s murder); wants to abolish the monarchy (was once true, no longer is); and doesn’t know what a woman is (citation needed).
Once they got that out of their system: Starmer moved on to ask Sunak about the collapse of Tata steel and problems in the government’s rollout of an expansion of free childcare. Sunak argued that his plan was working and — drum roll — that a plan-less Starmer would take Britain “back to square one.” The PM used that particular phrase on three separate occasions. Starmer had lots of fun seizing on an anonymous government quote to the Times newspaper which described the childcare plan as a “shitshow.”
Laying the ground: The exchanges were useful as a way of hammering home how the leaders will fight the upcoming election. Starmer will argue the Tories are too divided to govern, while Sunak will insist his nemesis has no plan for the country.
Onto the actual real-life wars: Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster boss, raised new ITV footage from Gaza — which showed an apparently unarmed Palestinian man, carrying a white flag, being shot and killed by the IDF. Flynn asked the PM to decry the “war crime” and call for an immediate cease-fire. Sunak said he has made the point to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu that international law must be respected.
Going further: The Labour backbencher Tahir Ali provoked uproar from the Tory benches — and some of his colleagues — when he said Sunak should admit he has the “blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands” because of the U.K.’s support for Israel. “That’s the face of the ‘changed’ Labour Party,” Sunak hit back.
Throwback Wednesday: Former Prime Minister Theresa May got the chance to ask a question — and used the moment to ask about recommendations she and another MP have made on the health risks of type 1 diabetes. Sunak said the government would consider her ideas.
Suck-up of the day: “Does the prime minister agree the Lib Dems in my constituency are bad?” Tory MP Paul Holmes (pretty much) asked when his moment came to grill the leader of a major G7 economy.
Totally non-scientific scores on the door: Both men got plenty of opportunities to set out their election battle lines with reasonable success. But aren’t there more important things going on?
Starmer 5/10 … Sunak 4/10 … POLITICO’s election campaign fatigue already 100/10.