Politics

Who won today's PMQs? Keir Starmer says Rishi Sunak has 'gone into hibernation'

PMQs: Keir accuses Rishi of 'playing games with people's health' amid nurse …

It is the last edition of prime minister's questions of 2022 and what a year it has been.

This year, Labour leader Keir Starmer faced three consecutive prime ministers (Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak) across the despatch box and questioned them on their policies and conduct.

They covered everything from disastrous economic decisions to breaking Covid rules throughout 2022 and with strikes and the government's new asylum policy dominating the newspapers this week, there was plenty more to talk about.

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Who would leave the commons with a stocking full of presents and who would be left with coal?

Here's what happened this week:

Sunak: "We do work constructively and we will continue to back our nurses," 6/10

Starmer started by questioning Sunak on the nurse's strike which starts tomorrow. He called on Sunak to talk to the nurses involved but a defensive Sunak said he had and that they had seen plenty of good deals in the past.

Stamer: "Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government," 7/10

The Labour leader responded with strong language, placing the blame for disruption on the government before telling a story about a child waiting for an operation who will be impacted by the strikes. Putting the pressure on Sunak, he said the child;s mum was listening to PMQs and wanted answers.

Sunak: "He's not strong enough to stand up to the unions," 5/10

A flustered Sunak seemed devoid of empathy in the face of the human impact of the dispute and reverted to blaming Labour for the union's decision. Baffling stuff.

Starmer: "It's Tory politics first, patients second," 8/10

It gave Starmer the opportunity to claim Sunak is more interested in his party than the country before suggesting a concrete and popular policy that could be enacted to meet soaring demand in the NHS - scrapping non-dom tax status and using the money gained to train more staff.

Sunak: "If we listened to him the backlog would still be growing and that's because we'd still be in lockdown," 0/10

It was at this moment that Sunak lost all semblance of credibility. "We're already investing billions more in the NHS, he whined". "He fails to acknowledge the impact Covid had," he cried.

And then he delivered the line Boris Johnson loved the most when he was prime minister and actually suggested Starmer would enact a lockdown, almost three years after the pandemic started.

It became tiresome when Johnson trotted it out week after week but at least it was rooted in the right time context. Next Sunak will be shouting at Starmer for his stance on World War I or asking about his position on dinosaur extinction.

Starmer: "The reason he can't choose nurses over non-doms because he's too weak to stand up to the tax avoiders," 9/10

The best thing to do when people talk utter nonsense is to ignore them, and that Starmer did before cementing his portrayal of Sunak as someone who chooses the rich over working people and is weak. Smart positioning.

Sunak: "It's Labour's nightmare before Christmas," 3/10

Sunak then blamed independent bodies for their pay recommendations then gleefully shouted out this line. It sounded like he had pre-prepared it and was just desperate to say it because it didn't seem to make much sense in context - which we did just learn isn't Sunak's strongest skill.

Starmer: "Winter is coming for our public services and we've got a prime minister who has curled up in a ball and gone into hibernation," 10/10

The Labour leader's killer attack line was far more punchy and evocative, and he even got a laugh out of Sunak. Then he conducted the tone of the commons and called on Sunak to thank the house for supporting Ukraine, which made it seem as if it was Starmer who was the PM and Sunak in opposition.



Verdict

Just as sitcoms save their best material for their Christmas specials, it appeared Sunak and Starmer were waiting for their final run-in before having their most emotive ding-dong.

The two seems impassioned and may be in need of a Strepsil or two (not sponsored) after they strained their voices to make themselves heard over jeering MPs ready for the year to end.

Sunak relied on the Johnson playbook and seemed flustered, while Starmer had the punchier lines and constantly had Sunak in defence not attack.

So its mince pies aplenty for Starmer, and coal for Sunak.

Until next year.

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