They say a week is a long time in politics and no week has demonstrated the verifiability of that adage more than this one.
The sun has risen and set seven times and in that timeframe we have somehow pivoted from despairing at Boris Johnson’s Peppa Pig themed speech to business leaders, to strapping ourselves in for coronavirus round 100 – as news of the new chapter in the saga was welcomed with the same excitement as when DreamWorks said there was going to be a Shrek 5 film.
With that delightful context setting the scene for another spat between Johnson and Keir Starmer, the two leaders clashed on the Conservative Party’s hospital policies, whether the prime minister broke restrictions last year and more.
“All guidance was followed completely and can I recommend to (him) that he does the same with his own Christmas party, which is advertised for December 15th, to which unaccountably he’s failed to invite the deputy leader,” Johnson 3/10
Straight off the bat, Starmer quizzed the PM on allegations that he threw a “boozy party” in Downing Street in December 2020, at a time when London was under strict tier three restrictions.
Johnson played politics by bringing up a silly spat about Starmer issuing an invite for a drinks party jointly hosted by him and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, but not his deputy Angela Rayner.
This made Johnson look petty but, crucially for his opponents and those who wish to scrutinise him, he didn’t deny the parties.
A double failure of an answer, then.
Boris Johnson attacks Labour for being consumed by “factional infighting”, which is bold for a party leader who’s h… https://t.co/lbvY74KrMR
“He is taking the British public for fools,” Starmer, 9/10
After the PM tried to move the conversation onto booster jabs which he said was “frankly a more relevant consideration”, Starmer refused to let him set the agenda and continued lambasting Johnson over his behaviour with this pretty powerful line.
And as is becoming his line of choice, Starmer also repeated his claim that it is “one rule for them, another rule for everyone else.”
- Starmer begins #pmqs by asking Johnson why he thought it was okay to hold a Downing St party a year ago “when peo… https://t.co/5V76HxPCTx
“Rather than running down what they’re trying to do... he should get behind them,” Johnson 1/10
When Starmer scrutinised his hospital policies, instead of answering the question, Johnson acted like he was criticising the NHS and doctors and nurses in general and said he was “running down” their efforts.
This was a remarkably hamfisted attempt at twisting Starmer’s words and made Johnson look like he was frantically clutching at straws to defend himself.
“No wonder so many Tory donors paid so much for that wallpaper last year, he probably told them he was building a new flat,” Starmer 9/10
Having explained that Johnson’s manifesto-promised 40 new hospitals may be a slight exaggeration – given refurbishments and alterations can count as “new”, according to a leaked document –Starmer couldn’t resist twisting the knife in further and bringing up the PM’s controversial flat refurbishment, which is under investigation.
Starmer cites leaked document called “New Hospitals Programme Communications Playbook” which says refurbishments an… https://t.co/BrJxCEMUPI
“Isn’t it the truth that any promises from this PM aren’t worth the manifesto paper they’re written on?” Starmer, 8/10
Listing issues like HS2 and low tax, Starmer presented Johnson as “corrupt”, suggesting he was incapable of keeping promises.
A visibly rattled Johnson then ranted on about how great the government is as usual and – despite continually accusing Starmer of playing politics – tried to make a jibe about Labour infighting by bringing up Starmer’s Christmas party, again.
'Any promises from this Prime Minister aren't worth the manifesto paper they're written on!'
Sir Keir Starmer list… https://t.co/1QjZf8h1N7
“If we listened to Captain Hindsight we’d all still be in lockdown,” Johnson 0/10
We all know Johnson overuses this line, but we had deja vu like no other today, upon realising that this is exactly the same way Johnson ended his final answer during last week's edition of PMQs.
Not only is it boring, it might not end up being the good point Johnson thinks it is as news of the omicron variant triggers fears about the reintroduction of harsher restrictions in the weeks that follow.
Change! The! Record!
This was a fiery episode of PMQs.
Johnson kept trying to changing the subject to paint himself in a good light after Starmer continually tripped him up on issue after issue, successfully winding him up.
By the end, Johnson was shouting so loudly that his microphone crackled and he resorted to throwing out his favourite tired lines.
Starmer could stand to refresh his arsenal too as, while now effective, his “one rule for them” and sleaze lines may nose their bite as time goes on. Apart from that, his news sense didn't seem the sharpest – and by choosing to go in on hospitals and HS2 without mentioning omicron at all, you could forgive Johnson for questioning why he wasn’t looking at more “relevant considerations”.