Politics

Who won today's PMQs? Keir Starmer calls Rishi Sunak 'the blancmange prime minister'

PMQs: Keir Starmer calls Rishi Sunak a ‘blancmange prime minister’

After a week in which we saw more strikes announced, a shakeup in Westminster SNP leadership, an important byelection, and Labour's new devolution plan detailed - prime minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer had plenty to talk about when they met once more.

But they didn't even get onto any of that. Indeed, with so much politics to choose from this week, the pair instead clashed on housing, the scandal surrounding Tory peer Michelle Mone and rising cases of Strep A.

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Who had their Weetabix this morning and who was left floundering like a soggy... Weetabix.

Here's what happened:

Starmer: "The blancmange PM wobbled," 8/10

Starmer kicked things off by comparing Sunak to a milk-based pudding for scrapping mandatory housebuilding target due to pressure from backbenchers.

The PM has faced criticism for this decision and Starmer leapt at the opportunity to paint the Tory leader as weak and more interested in party unity than the nation once again.

"He did a grubby deal with a handful of his MPs and sold out the aspirations of those who want to own their own homes," he added.

Sunak: "Engaging in the petty personality politics, not focussed on the substance" 6/10

A wobbled PM tried to regain ground by making Starmer seem like a bit of an a**e.. He then explained why his u-turn was good and enabled locals to have more say in decision-making.

"Just this week... he said government should be giving people more power and control, now he seems to be opposing it," he said, referencing his devolution plans.

"I know he flip-flops but even for him this is pretty quick."

This was pretty clever. Starmer has been positioning Sunak as a big u-turner so the PM turning that accusation back on him will mean Starmer will need to be more careful in his own decisions if he wants to set consistency as a standard to live up to.

Starmer: "This is bigger than politics," 7/10

Starmer then popped the Westminster bubble and spoke for people struggling to buy their homes. He offered to work with Sunak to deliver targets.

Sunak: "The Labour party talks, the Conservative party delivers," 6/10

But the prime minister was having none of it. This line seemed really preplanned and like it could have been slotted in anywhere. As such, it didn't pack much punch and sounded more like a slogan for Royal Mail or something.

Starmer: "As ever too weak to stand up to his own side... is there no issue that he won't give into his own backbenchers?" 7/10

Starmer then called Sunak "weak" as he has done for consecutive sessions and criticised him for other u-turns. He then pressed the PM on allegations that Tory peer Michelle Mone benefitted from PPE contracts she recommended during the pandemic and said Sunak's apparent "shock" on the matter was unbelievable.

Sunak responded by asking Starmer a series of questions about his stance on upcoming strikes, despite it being PMQs, not leader of the opposition's questions before Starmer made the tone more serious by talking about Strep A.


Verdict

This was the week Sunak found his groove.

Less awkward than weeks before, less stilted, and less reliant on Boris Johnson's old techniques, the prime minister seemed at ease and delivered a few off-the-cuff blows that showed he has at least some relationship with wit.

It was a strong performance from Starmer too who refused to be knocked down by Sunak's assault, and with steady perseverance was left with the upper hand when Sunak resorted to moaning about Labour's position on upcoming strikes.

Then when he negotiated a tone change by bringing up Strep A at the end, making the jeering house fall silent, it was clear he was the only conductor in the commons.

Until next week...

It is a simple and fundamental principle that the government derives its democratic legitimacy from the people. The future of the country must not be decided by plotting and U-turns at Westminster; it must be decided by the people in a general election. And for this reason The Independent is calling for an election to be held. Have your say and sign our election petition by clicking here.

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