Who won this week’s PMQs? We’ve scored Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer

Who won this week’s PMQs? We’ve scored Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer

Who have we got then? Well, in the red corner we have leader of the opposition Keir Starmer ready for a fight. In the blue corner, we have the Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his guard up.

Look, you know what this is – it’s PMQs. On and on the weekly shouting match goes and this week was no different with the politicians shouting about a recent review into rape conviction rates that showed convictions have fallen to a record low.

Last week, Boris Johnson delivered one of his worst performances in recent weeks, fumbling and mumbling rather than answering any questions at all. Did he do his homework this week?

Let’s look at the highlight reel:

“Let me return to the question that the Prime Minister hasn’t answered” - Starmer, 7/10

Starmer used this week to ask exclusively about this review. He can only ask six questions in total so does not usually focus on one theme. So, to ask the same question twice - the question being why prosecutions had fallen - is bold and confident.

“What would be good if we could have some support from the opposition for tougher sentences.” - Johnson, 3/10

We have raised again and again that asking an opposition leader for support during weekly scrutiny is wholly bizarre. Yet Johnson asked Starmer to praise the government three times during this edition of PMQs. Every week Starmer quite obviously ignores Johnson. When will the Prime Minister learn to end this ridiculous line of attack?

“The Prime Minister knows very well why we voted against his bill – precisely because it did more to protect statues than women” - Starmer, 8/10

Starmer had the perfect response to Johnson begging for support and said the proposed police, crime, sentencing and courts bill that caused controversy when it was introduced in March helped statues more than anyone.

The bill will give the police more powers to shut down protests and included a clause that means those caught defacing statues - something that has happened over the last year in protest of the celebration of problematic historical figures - could face up to ten years in prison.

Johnson was correct, however, in saying the bill proposes tougher sentences for perpetrators of sexual violence and even correctly identified the clauses in the bill that state that.

“What an appalling answer... victims of rape are being failed.” - Starmer, 9/10

Starmer, for his part, was right to retort that many cases don’t even make it to court and using a quote from the government’s own report was powerful.

In a letter signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and Attorney General Michael Ellis, they say: “These are trends of which we are deeply ashamed.

“Victims of rape are being failed. Thousands of victims have gone without justice.

“But this isn’t just about numbers - every instance involves a real person who has suffered a truly terrible crime.”

“No matter how much he wriggles and squirms, he can’t get away from the simple fact that on a three line whip, he got his party to vote against tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offenders. That, Mr Speaker, is weak.” - Johnson, 1/10

There’s a saying Johnson should be made aware of. Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. To hear Johnson accusing someone else of wriggling and squirming raised our eyebrows, and as his voice rose he started to lose his temper, and his grip of the argument.

“He can always tell when he’s losing Mr Speaker.” - Starmer, 4/10

After Johnson came close to losing his temper, Starmer laughed and quipped back. We can only imagine how frustrated Johnson must have felt in that moment. Playground style teasing while discussing victims of sexual assault, though? Not the best form.

“We are helping them by getting our courts moving again and the fastest and most efficient way to do that is to get our country moving again which is what we are doing with the fastest vaccination rollout anywhere in Europe.

“They jabber, we jab; they dither, we deliver; they vacillate and we vaccinate.” - Johnson, 0/10

What a segue. Johnson masterfully managed to turn a conversation about victims of rape into a flag-waving celebration of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and it was as tasteless as it sounds. Then he launched into his usual PMQ-ending spiel about how he ‘gets things done’, then slammed himself down on his seat, clearly proud of himself.

But more observant viewers of PMQs might remember something Starmer said last week. What? Well he took a leaf out of Johnson’s playbook and said: “While the NHS was vaccinating, he was vacillating.”

It was quite the line, so good that Johnson has today taken the note, erased Starmer’s name from it, and given it a Boris Johnson stamp. We see you, Prime Minister.

The verdict

Johnson and Starmer had both done their homework this week. Talking about crime and prosecutions, Starmer was obviously in his element. Meanwhile, Johnson had some statistics at hand and used them to shut down Starmer whenever he could.

And there is no question that it was an important issue to hold the government to account on. Was it though, deeply uncomfortable to watch two men shout about female victims of sexual assault to score political points? Yes.

No winners this week, then. Though the speaker of the house Lindsay Hoyle gets a thumbs up from us for reminding our elected politicians that the issue was “emotive” and asking them to stop shouting.

The Conversation (0)