Boris Johnson rejects calls to rethink fuel bills help, as Starmer warns ...
Independent

With Russia's invasion of Ukraine dominating the political agenda, last week's edition of PMQs started off historically, as MPs from all sides of the house united to clap the Ukrainian ambassador who visited the commons.

And as the weekly conversation between Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer continued, the two struck a rare unified tone and agreed to work together to toughen up sanctions against Vladimir Putin's regime.

In the week that has followed, the war has continued with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressing parliament on Tuesday, calling on the west to do more.

Would the political adversaries remain united as they met again today or was there inevitable regression to the normal cut and thrust of shouty politics?

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Here's what happened this week:

Starmer: "When will the prime minister force the chancellor into a U-turn?" 7/10

Starmer started proceedings by quizzing the PM over the cost of living crisis caused in part by spiralling energy costs. As he has done in the past, he slammed Rishi Sunaks' loan to households and suggested it be scrapped in favour of something else.

Johnson: "He's absolutely right. We need to meet the long term impacts of the spike in energy prices" 6/10

Has a pig flown by indy100's window? Was that the prime minister capitulating to Starmer's criticism and admitting the government could do more? Afraid not. He then blamed previous Labour governments - a party that has not been in government for over 12 years, by the way - for not investing in nuclear power. Agh.

Starmer asked the same U-turn question again and Johnson replied...

Johnson: "He's absolutely out of his mind." 1/10

Charming.

Starmer: "He's got this badly wrong." 7/10

Starmer then facilitated some useful political debate. He said that Johnson should issue a windfall tax on large energy companies but Johnson said this would only encourage the companies to increase their prices.

And that is the dilemma in a nutshell, so how did Starmer response?

Starmer: "Protecting energy profits not working people, doesn't that say it all? Britain can't afford another crisis like this." 8/10

With some nice rhetoric to get the public on side, that's how. He added that the government needs to stop defending policies which make the UK dependent on foreign gas to which Johnson remarked that the UK only relies on Russian gas for 3 per cent of its energy supply, before delighting in thinking he was catching Starmer out on the issue of nuclear power.

Johnson: "He just committed to supporting more nuclear power. Great news! There is more joy in heaven over one sin repented..." 5/10

Johnson was practically frothing at the mouth at the idea he had caught Starmer in a U-turn, even though the party supported nuclear power in its 2019 manifesto.

Starmer: "Come of it...This prime minister can't get a single brick laid in a new nuclear plant". 6/10

Sassy.

Johnson: "We've got the fastest growth in the G7". 0/10

Eek. The prime minister loves saying this and if it were wholly accurate we'd probably be shouting it from the rooftops too. So it is a bit awkward that fact checkers have taken umbrage with this claim.

Johnson then regressed to his summer 2021 era (Hot Boris Summer, if you don't mind) and went on about Starmer being Captain Hindsight who would still have us all in lockdown. Time for him to refresh his comms.

Starmer: "12 years in power and that's the best he can do?" 9/10

And it seems Starmer agrees. Burn.

Johnson: "We work together to maintain our opposition to Vladimir Putin's vile war in Ukraine" 10/10

Johnson then changed the tone. He praised his government for issuing sanctions and providing military support for the people of Ukraine and assured the house, which fell silent for the first time in the debate: "We will come through it stronger and I have no doubt that Putin will fail".

An abrupt shift to end the conversation on but a fair point.

Verdict

We've seen on countless occasions - the aftermath of the killing of MP Sir David Amess springs to mind for instance - that resolve for political unity in PMQs is wretchedly slippery and barely lasts ten minutes.

The political response to the war in Ukraine appears no different, and less than 24 hours after the two politicians clapped Zelensky for his speech to the commons, they returned to their usual squabbles and jibes.

We don't expect them to sit in a drum circle together and hold hands or anything - but the world is watching and judging. Do we really want them to see Captain Hindsight vs the profit favouring PM, or something rather different?

You be the judge.

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