Starmer calls Sunak 'weak' over bullying row

Another week in British politics has just gone by and it has been as chaotic as ever.

As PM Rishi Sunak (finally) went to Cop27 in Egypt to discuss the climate crisis, back in England one of his ministers Gavin Williamson was accused of bullying and so much dirt got dug up on him that he resigned.

Meanwhile, the economy continued to deteriorate and people continued to criticise home secretary Suella Braverman for her asylum policies.

Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

So there were plenty of things for Sunak's counterpart Keir Starmer to hammer him on this week as the two faced each other for the latest edition of PMQs.

What did he choose to cover and how did it go down? Here's what went down this week:

Starmer: Williamson is "a sad middle manager getting off on bullying those beneath him," 6/10

Starmer started by criticising Sunak for his handling of Williamson. He launched a withering attack on the disgraced politician before saying he got away with it because Sunak is "so weak" he is "worried the bullies will turn on him" and that "he hides behind them".

Sunak: "Integrity in public life matters," 4/10

Responding to the criticism, Sunak said Williamson's behaviour was "unacceptable" and that he had dealt with it "properly". Integrity in public life does matter, Sunak, but actions speak louder than words and making such claims about integrity is bold, given his family's financial interests are pretty controversial, he has hired a motley cabinet, and he wasn't even elected by the public to be PM.

Sunak: "I was chancellor who introduced an extra tax on oil and gas companies," 1/10

Next, Starmer abruptly changed the conversation topic and brought up the fact that Shell has not had to pay any windfall tax despite its huge profit.

Sunak replied that he was the one to make companies pay more tax.

Well, yes. But only when Starmer's Labour party forced you to, Sunak. In case you had forgotten, the Tories introduced a windfall tax on excess profits in May after sustained campaigning from the opposition.

And after the u-turn, Sunak delivered a masterclass in political gaslighting when he refused to call a spade a spade, or a windfall tax a windfall tax, and instead told the commons he was delivering a "temporary targeted energy profits levy", leading Labour MPs to jeer and laugh.

Starmer: "I am against all those causing chaos, damage to our public services, to our economy, whether they are glueing themselves to the road or sitting on the Conservative benches," 9/10

A fumbling Sunak tried to make criticism ricochet back on Starmer next, and in true Boris Johnson protege style, rattled off a list of popular causes like supporting working people and said Starmer was against them all.

"He's not on the side of working people, that's what the conservatives are for," he even spouted, in an odd interpretation of the "LABOUR" party.

It was at the point that Starmer demonstrated some off the cuff wit and said that everything Sunak had just said was pure nonsense before accusing the Tories of being the ones who cause "chaos".

It is just a shame that he didn't acknowledge that eco-protester's causes are important, even though the way they protest then is wrong.

Sunak: "He thought the member for Islington North was the right person..." 2/10

With everything going wrong for the PM, Sunak desperately copied Johnson one last time by bringing up Jeremy Corbyn, a man who has not been the leader of the opposition for over two years and doesn't even have the Labour whip anymore.

Tragic stuff.


It started off as a bit of a Westminster bubble edition of PMQs.

While the allegations about Williamson are important and serious, and anyone accused of bullying should not see power, it would have been nice if more time was dedicated to issues more directly facing the public.

After all, Sunak has just been at Cop27 and it would be nice if politicians could at least pay a bit of lip service to one of the most pressing issues of our time - the climate.

But there was far too much talk of Sir Gav and his various misdemeanors despite the fact that he has now resigned, so the process of holding the disgraced politician to account has worked. Surely it is now time to move on to other things?

With time running out, Starmer quickly touched on a number of other issues at pace - the economy, that controversial home secretary Suella Braverman is still in post and that Sunak was not elected by the general public but it felt a bit like a bitty scattergun approach.

Nevertheless, Starmer came out with some zingers that left Sunak wheezing. All Sunak could do in response was bang on about Corbyn.

So who won this PMQs? Starmer took the crown this week, but everything could change next time.

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.

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)