Politics

Who won today's PMQs? Starmer tells Sunak to ‘apologise for lethal chaos’

Full exchange: Keir Starmer confronts Rishi Sunak over NHS ‘lethal chaos’

It’s that time again, and the biggest figures in British politics were back in the Commons for another PMQs.

After things got back to usual again last week following the Christmas break, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer were at loggerheads once again inside the chamber.

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Last week saw Starmer accuse the Tories of ’breaking the NHS’, and the latest head-to-head saw Starmer challenge the PM on ongoing strikes and issues with the health service once again.

But who came out on top? Here’s what happened.

Starmer - “If someone calls 999 now, when would an ambulance arrive?” 7/10

The leader of the opposition starts things off by asking a direct question to Sunak, highlighting the chaos that the health service is currently facing. It looks like the crisis in the NHS will be the big talking point of the day again.

Sunak - “We’re doing everything to improve conditions” 3/10

Sunak claims the Tories are acting rapidly to improve conditions in the NHS without offering any specifics, before asking why Starmer won't support the minimum safety legislation.

Starmer - “Stop blaming others” 8/10

“When will that ambulance arrive,” he asks again, provoking more non-answers from the PM. Sunak instead talks about increasing funding, claims it's because they’re “recovering from the pandemic” and the “pressures of this winter”.

Starmer goes on to detail the extensive wait times for ambulances across the country, and “someone who fears a heart attack fearing a two and a half hour wait” as an average across the UK. After a slightly unsteady start, he is on firmer ground when asks Sunak to ‘stop blaming others... take responsibility and admit the NHS is in crisis’.

Sunak - 'Things are worse in Wales' 1/10

Sunak begins by saying that wait times for ambulances in Wales are even worse than in England, and it’s really not the slam he thinks it is. He also highlights the impact of the pandemic and an early flu season before asking why Starmer won't support the minimum safety legislation in a bizarre response.

Starmer - “He won’t answer any questions and he won’t take any responsibility” 7/10

The Labour leader brings it back to the question of ambulance wait times and does well to quiet down shouts from opposition benches, reminding them that the hypothetical heart attack victim he’s talking about is “one of their constituents”.

Sunak - “We’re investing more in urgent care” 7/10

A stronger response from Sunak, finally answering a question put to him.

“The specific and practical things we are doing to improve ambulance times are clear,” he said. “We’re investing more in urgent and critical care to add more bed capacity. We’re ensuring that flow of patients through emergency care is faster than it ever has been. We are discharging people at a record rate out of hospitals…” Sunak says, finally offering a direct answer to a question.

Sunak ends by accusing Starmer of being “in the pockets of his union paymaster,” which is the strongest he’s been so far.

Starmer - “This is not hypothetical, this is real life” 8/10

Starmer recounts the true stories of 26-year-old “Stephanie from Plymouth” who was battling cancer and died waiting for an ambulance due to services being “unable to prioritise her”.

“When will he sort out these delays and get back to the 18 minute wait?” he asks. A good moment for Starmer.

Sunak - “People are working as hard as they can” 3/10

The PM begins by reeling off the same stuff about people working hard in the NHS, which of course they are, without offering any further answers or solutions. He then asks yet again about the minimum safety legislation, and enquires why Starmer is against the “guarantee of emergency life saving care”. Weak from Sunak.

Starmer - “Deflect, blame others, never take responsibility” 7/10

The leader of the opposition goes in on Sunak’s lack of accountability, before saying: “He won’t say when he will deliver the basic service levels that people need”. He ends by pointing out that 700 people will call an ambulance during the length of PMQS, before asking whether Sunak will “apologise for the lethal chaos under his watch”.

Sunak - “We are delivering on the people’s priorities” 4/10

“The honourable gentleman will just say anything if the politics suits him,” the PM says, before going on to discuss the “broken promises” that Starmer has made including “promising to nationalise public services and promising to have a second referendum”.

Verdict

It turned out to be one of the feistier affairs between Sunak and Starmer so far, as Sunak was clearly a little rattled by the line of questioning on ambulance wait times.

There were some strong moments from Starmer, who did well to bring back the alarming numbers to real human experiences. He was also able to get Sunak to effectively concede that the NHS is in crisis, without saying so explicitly.

If we were working in Sunak’s office, we’d be trying to get together a few more points of attack to be used against Starmer next week. His retorts seemed more feeble than usual this week, returning to the minimum safety legislation point a total of three times.

Ultimately, it was another unconvincing display from Sunak, and a solid if unspectacular week for Starmer in the commons.

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