Boris Johnson says Labour wants to ‘clobber’ oil and gas profits
Independent

It is time, once again, for PMQs.

In the week that has passed since Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer last scrapped in the commons, Starmer has been accosted by a group of protesters who repeated Johnson's infamous false Savile claims, Johnson has tidied the deckchairs on the Titanic - or reshuffled his cabinet to use the appropriate language - and more MPs have said they've had enough of their boss.

With all that providing the political scenery for their conversation today, how did they get on?

Let's play the highlights reel:

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"Two crimes that people could commit were online fraud and throwing parties." Starmer 9/10

Starmer started off by referencing a BBC interview with business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in which he defended a claim Johnson made in parliament about the government cutting crime.

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said the prime minister "did not make clear" the figure excluded fraud and it also said the Home Office had presented figures in a "misleading way" and Starmer wasn't going to let Johnson forget it.

While SW1 has seemed to have shelved Partygate for now, Starmer also couldn't resist a little joke to show its consequences are still rippling through Westminster and giving Johnson a massive headache.

Fair play to him.


"It's almost as if he's been completely distracted for weeks." Starmer 8/10

Starmer then made a subtle dig about all the political chaos that has engulfed Johnson in the last few weeks, like Partygate, Downing Street resignations and the increasing number of Tory MPs who have admitted they have submitted letters of no-confidence in the PM.

"The government is insulting people's intelligence by pretending that it's giving them a discount but it's not. It's a con. A buy now pay later scheme, a dodgy loan not a proper plan," Starmer 9/10

He then moved on to the cost of living crisis and what the government is doing to help. Last week the government announced that all households would receive £200 off their energy bills in October – but then pay the discount back by £40 a year over five years from 2023.

It has been packaged as a discount but that doesn't seem to be the case since it has to be paid back so it was wise of Starmer to give Johnson a kicking over this.

He also mocked Johnson over the Tories receiving large donations from donors and asked him whether it would be classed as a loan or discount if donors asked for their money back.

"The prime minister clearly doesn't have the first clue what the chancellor has signed him up to." Starmer 8/10

Savage. Starmer embarrassed Johnson in two ways here. Firstly, he made him sound pretty incompetent but secondly, he picked at the seams of his relationship with chancellor Rishi Sunak and made it seem like it is Sunak who is calling the shots.

We imagine Johnson didn't like that one bit and who can blame Starmer for having a go given how often Johnson makes quips about Starmer's relationship with deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner?

"This is a global problem caused by the spike in gas prices." Johnson 7/10

Johnson then cleverly distanced himself from the cost of living issue by blaming global factors which, to be fair, have contributed to rising energy prices, but that doesn't mean there are no meaningful policies to help.

"I can't tell if he's dropped that one now." Johnson 6/10

The prime minister then made a jibe about Starmer's apparent change of heart about nationalising the energy sector.

Starmer has recently said he is against the idea but when he was running for leadership of the party one of his 10 key pledges was that “public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water.”

Ouch.

"It's all one big scam and people across the country are paying the price" Starmer 8/10

More strong accusations from Starmer that are sure to get the public fired up. He also called Sunak and Johnson "the loan shark chancellor and his unwitting sidekick" which isn't as good as his Thelma and Louise joke last week, but still.


"Labour is calling for us to take the easy way out and spend more taxpayers' money" Johnson, 3/10

Johnson then whipped out a classic Conservative line about Labour having a relaxed approach to spending public money. How original.

"We have a great plan for our country. They play politics." Johnson, 1/10

By banging on about their "plan" and "playing politics" we saw the same old stuff from the PM. Boring!


Verdict

After weeks of Partygate fighting, this was the first edition of PMQs in a while that got to the heart of real policy issues that affect people across the country.

While Kwarteng's interview about crime was an embarrassing clanger for the government we doubt it is one that massively cut-through and is therefore unsure while Starmer led with it, particularly when the other issue he covered - the cost of living crisis - is far more emotive and pressing.

Meanwhile, despite having a new director of communications, Johnson stuck to the same lines he has been using while Guto Harri was wittering about on GB News - that's Covid and Brexit, of course.

He did seem a little more... contained though. Instead of firing off gaffes left right and centre he was wary of insulting Starmer and stuck to talking about government policy. So the fact that he avoided another Jimmy Savile type ruckus means this might go down as a success in his book.

But ultimately, Starmer seized the moral high ground during Partygate and climbed up the polls as a result. Now he is enjoying himself and approaches PMQs more like a leader than the leader of the opposition, leaving Johnson quivering and spluttering in front of him.

We'll see if this confidence continues in the next edition of PMQs but for now, he's our winner.


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