Starmer says Sunak was 'trounced' by Truss, who was beaten by lettuce
Indy

When Keir Starmer became leader of the Labour party in 2020, he probably didn't expect to chat to so many different Tories.

But after spending a couple of years rowing with Boris Johnson at the despatch box during PMQs, the disgraced PM resigned and Starmer quickly had to get to grips with a new opponent - Liz Truss.

Spare a thought for his communications team who probably spent hours working out how to completely nail her, only for her to show up three times and then resign, so now they have to work out all of Rishi Sunak's tricks.

Yes, Sunak is now the prime minister and after appointing his cabinet just yesterday, the new leader ticked off PMQs on his prime ministerial bucket list as he faced Starmer's scrutiny on his new appointments, his democratic mandate and his policies.

How did it go? As ever, we'll tell you what you need to know:

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Sunak: "I hope that they can be serious and grown-up," 8/10

Sunak started his PMQs session with some polite small talk acknowledging his new relationship with Starmer and with his best public school manners said while it was important to have "robust" debate during the weekly PMQs he hoped they would be conducted in a sensible manner.

Ah, this is the grown-up politics we've all been anticipating. How refreshing.


Sunak: "The party opposite remains soft on crime and in favour of unlimited immigration," 2/10

It lasted all of seconds, even shorter than Sunak's first speech as Tory leader, and when asked about the controversial reappointment of Suella Braverman to the cabinet as the home office minister, Sunak's mask slipped and he started jeering unsubstantiated nonsense.

Starmer gently reminded the PM that he ran the crown prosecution service (CPS) for five years, so calling him soft on crime was a bit of a bizarre charge, so Sunak bleated about "15,000 new police officers" and claimed Labour support a "lunatic protesting fringe" group, who we assume means Just Stop Oil.

Just nonsense.


Starmer: "There's a new Tory at the top but as always with them: it's party first, country second," 9/10

What could Starmer do with all that? Well, the withering politician called Sunak "weak" and said he had done a "grubby deal" to maintain his grip on power by allowing Braverman, who breached the ministerial code by sending "sensitive" Home Office documents, to come back to cabinet. His accusation that the party is more interested in staying united than serving the country will resonate with a tired electorate who just want a general election.


Starmer: "I don't have to explain to the prime minister how non-dom status works, he already knows all about this," 6/10

Next, Starmer criticised high-value individuals in this country who pay tax abroad and couldn't resist making a dig about Sunak's wife and her tax arrangements. It was a bit of a cheap joke, but sometimes you have to meet people at their level.


Sunak: "I know the right honourable gentleman rarely leaves North London," 1/10

Oh, here we go. Maybe the real reason Sunak let Braverman back in the cabinet was because he finds her "tofu" banter funny.

Yes, after Starmer fairly brought up footage of Sunak bragging about taking money out of deprived urban areas, all hope that we had an adult in charge to replace Truss and her fixation with an "anti-growth coalition" evaporated.

Prime ministers have been going on about Labour and North London since Boris Johnson was in office. Is this Johnson's most concrete legacy?


Sunak: "Our mandate was based on a manifesto we were elected on," 0/10

Sunak finished his clusterf**k performance by pretending people want him to be the PM.

It is a completely blinkered take to insist that, if elected in 2019, a party that then rotates through three prime ministers in the next few years, testing different policies like "Trussenomics", and working through completely different political environments like the coronavirus pandemic and the energy crisis is as legitimate as it was on the day it was elected.

You just have to look at any opinion poll to realise the country wants change, and for a few MPs to make that change for them by electing Sunak just isn't good enough.

If the Tory party can change its mind twice in seven weeks about who it wants to lead them, the country should have the same say in three years.


Verdict

If you didn't know that this was Sunak's first-ever attempt at PMQs, you might have guessed it.

The prime minister seemed stilted and panicked, and so rather than bring his own style to the house, appeared to start copying Johnson's habit of shouting random statistics about the government's record and accusing the Labour party of increasingly more ridiculous nonsense. Yes, we're talking about going on about North London.

And the thing about copying Johnson is, well Johnson, unfortunately, had a bit of charisma about him - or at least knew more archaic words that left people confused.

Sunak on the other hand speaks like a 15-year-old who is about to lose their debating competition.

Indeed, we'd call him a pound shop Boris Johnson, but he is far too rich for that analogy to make sense.

Here's what other people made of it:

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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