Boris Johnson is running out of time to produce things the Tories can show the voters at the next election. The theme of his Queen's Speech – if there was one – was an attempt to fix that. That next election campaign was countered by Keir Starmer in the chamber this afternoon. The main focus was on the cost-of-living crisis and how much worse things are going to get.
The Labour leader repeatedly accused this government of not being 'up to the challenge', with the Tories producing only a 'thin address bereft of ideas or purpose, without a guiding principle or a roadmap for delivery'. Funnily enough, he didn't mention the members of the government who'd broken Covid rules and couldn't be trusted. Starmer instead described the Tories as 'out of touch' and 'tired', attacking Rishi Sunak on this front as much as Johnson.
The narrative that Sunak in particular has tried to construct is that the government simply doesn't have control over many of the drivers of the cost-of-living crisis, like supply chain issues or global pressures such as the war in Ukraine and China’s zero-Covid policies. Starmer tried to counter this today by claiming that there were warning signs long ago that were ignored. He said:
“This government's failure to grow the economy over a decade, combined with its inertia in the face of spiralling bills, means we are staring down the barrel of something we haven't seen in decades. A stagflation crisis. It is a truly shocking legacy for this government. It should humble those on the benches opposite who have ignored the red lights on the our economy, even whilst wages were frozen over a decade, and whose complacency is best summed up by a Prime Minister whose response to this crisis was to make fun of those worrying about inflation.
Johnson was no longer keen to make fun of anyone worrying about inflation when he responded. Instead, he managed to set hares running with a line that 'the Chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come', suggesting that there might be an emergency Budget in the offing. The Treasury has since clarified that there won't be one, so it isn't clear what is planned on the cost of living or indeed whether Sunak signed off on what Johnson said.