PMQs scorecard: Sunak reels as Natalie Elphicke jumps ship to Labour

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.

Another one? The first PMQs after the Tories’ rout in the local elections was definitely not short on drama. Just as it began, Labour announced the shock defection of Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke, who represents Dover in Kent. Rubbing salt into the wound, Elphicke sat right behind Labour Leader Keir Starmer during proceedings.

What they sparred about: Starmer basked in the glory of another Tory defection (Dan Poulter quit the Tories just two weeks ago). He crowed about his party’s victory in the Blackpool South by-election and widespread success in last week’s local elections.

Jumping ship: Starmer was fully on the offensive. “One week a Tory MP who’s also a doctor says the prime minister can’t be trusted with the NHS and joins Labour,” he said. “And the next week the Tory MP for Dover on the front line of the small boats crisis says the prime minister cannot be trusted with our borders and joins Labour. What is the point of this failed government staggering on?”

Familiar territory: Sunak wasn’t going down without a fight. He paid tribute to former Tory councilors and mayors rejected by voters last week — and went for an old-school attack on the last Labour government whose legacy “a letter joking that there was no money left.”

Heir to Blair: Sunak also tried channeling former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying Sunak “can be as cocky as he likes about local elections but come a general election, it’s policy that counts.” The PM claimed Labour’s about to clobber businesses with 70 new regulations — and has already u-turned 30 times under Starmer.

Back in the Chamber: Sunak asked whether Starmer would condemn Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Khan argued this week that there should be equally strong criticism of the actions of both Hamas and Israel in the Gaza conflict. Starmer demurred, going for the old opposition trick of pointing out it’s actually called Prime Minister’s Questions. “He’s getting ahead of himself in asking me questions,” the Labour boss quipped.

Helpful interventions of the week: Tory MP Sheryll Murray asked why Starmer wouldn’t back the government’s defense and immigration plans … Fellow Tory Philip Davies slammed civil servants objecting to the government’s Rwanda legislation … and their colleague John Penrose helpfully allowed Sunak to highlight the government’s dentistry plans.

Totally unscientific scores on the doors: Sunak took the Labour leader to task over Khan’s comments and tried highlighting Labour’s inconsistent policy offer. But any momentum the PM might enjoyed was stalled by Elphicke’s defection. Sunak 5/10 … Starmer 8/10 … Politicos picking up their dropped jaws 100/10.