Boris Johnson refuses to retract Savile smear after being accused of ‘parroting ...
Independent

Another Wednesday has come on round and that can only mean one thing.

It is time for another edition of PMQs in which Starmer and Johnson battle it out to grab the best headlines and the biggest cheers from their backbenchers - or scrutinise and champion the government's agenda if you have a less cynical take on it.

The last few editions have been a bit Groundhog Day esque with Starmer continually going in on Partygate and Johnson apologising and also defending his record.

So on this actual Groundhog Day did the conversation move on at all or are we doomed to hear the same jibes once again?

Let's take a look:

Starmer: "Their leader stands in the commons parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try and score cheap political points." 9/10


Starmer started the session by slamming Johnson over comments he made on Monday in the house, suggesting he failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was the director of public prosecution Starmer said the move was "cheap" and we're inclined to agree with him especially as his claim has been substantially debunked.

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Johnson: "I'm informed that in 2013 he apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch". 0/10

Despite fact-checking suggesting the contrary, Johnson repeated his comments and claimed Starmer had some responsibility for the case and once again lowered the tone by doing and caused the Labour back benches to erupt into jeers.

Starmer: "You can be as stealthy as you like but you can't hide reality" 7/10

Starmer then moved on to the economy and accused the government of implementing "stealth taxes" while claiming it is a low-tax party.

Johnson: "We are helping people with the cost of living" 3/10

Johnson was having none of it and claimed his tax increases - which include a national insurance hike - were fine, actually, and that the party was helping people deal with soaring household costs.

Starmer: "Lots of words, lots of bluster, no answers. Word of warning prime minister, that's not going to work with the police" 9/10


This was when Starmer couldn't help but make a punchy Partygate joke to put Johnson in his place and referenced the Metropolitan Police inquiry into alleged lockdown breaching events that the PM may have attended. Good banter.

Johnson: "We've been through the biggest pandemic" 7/10

Finally, Johnson gave some reasonable excuses for issues in the economy. While he was still keen to claim the economy was doing better than any other country (hmm), he toned down the bluster to admit that the costs of fighting an unprecedented pandemic with furlough, PPE and other unpredicted necessities had been high. "Everyone knows the cost of that," he said, and he had a rare point.

Starmer: "The prime minister has more chance persuading the public that he didn't have any parties than he has persuading them that the economy is booming" 8/10

Starmer retorted back with another Partygate zinger, buoyed on by his supportive backbenchers before claiming the Tory party has "treated taxpayers as an ATM for their mates and their lifestyles". This is another good line and grounds real concerns about the future of the economy in current public concern about 'sleaze' in the Tory party in terms of its nepotistic procurement of goods.

Historically, the Conservatives have done well to position themselves as a safe pair of hands with the economy and act like Labour would blow it all on sweets so taking the opportunity to reposition themselves was politically savvy.

Johnson: "I'm proud of what this government did to secure PPE" 4/10

As he has done in the past, Johnson responded by patting himself on the back and said tough decisions were needed to secure the supplies Britain needed. A fair point, but then he blew it all by wanging on about "Captain Hindsight" again. How tiring.

Starmer responded by saying the PM "has no respect for decency and honesty" which is as close as he can probably get to accusing him of lying without getting rapped on the knuckles by the speaker of the house. He also said Johnson gaslights the British public by promising low tax then delivering the opposite. Strong stuff.

Starmer: "The Tory Thelma and Louise hand in hand as they drive the public off the cliff" 5/10


Starmer said Johnson and his chancellor Rishi Sunak were akin to reckless film characters Thelma and Louise and that is not an image anyone wants in their minds. Johnson said Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner, were more like Dastardly and Muttley and with that the debate descended into farce.

Verdict

This edition did move the conversation on from Partgate to another pressing issue - the economy and the cost of living crisis.

Both leaders had some good zingers and seemed relieved to finally be talking about something else other than streamers, and a rowdy house provided a good atmosphere for a classic head-to-head.

With Starmer still encouraged by his strong polling and basking in the moral high ground, he seemed more comfortable than ever. So Dastardly wins today.

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