Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Sunak and Starmer need to change the record at PMQs

Rishi Sunak at PMQs (Credit:

Rishi Sunak was clearly not on a fasting day of his diet when he stood up at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon. He seemed to have consumed all the Weetabix in SW1, with more energy behind his attacks on Keir Starmer than he’s had for weeks. This didn’t mean the session veered away from its standard theme of two men fighting over who is the weaker, like dads at a barbecue vying over their DIY failures while burning the chicken. 

Each week’s weak-off has the same lines. Sunak’s are that Starmer sat next to Jeremy Corbyn for ‘four long years, not challenging him’ and that he can’t stand up to his union bosses. Meanwhile Starmer regularly accuses Sunak of not standing up to his own predecessors and cabinet colleagues who are mired in sleaze and bullying allegations. On and on it goes.

Sunak and Starmer are like dads at a barbecue vying over their DIY failures while burning the chicken

Today, the Labour leader opened by asking about the Nadhim Zahawi row, mocking the Prime Minister’s insistence on leading a government of ‘integrity and accountability’ and asking for more details of what Sunak knew about the Tory chairman’s tax affairs, and when. He went on to ask: ‘Is the Prime Minister now also going to claim that he is the only person completely unaware of serious allegations of bullying against the Deputy Prime Minister?’ Dominic Raab was sitting next to Sunak, and appeared to be mouthing ‘not true’. Meanwhile Rachel Reeves on the Labour side became increasingly exasperated and theatrically waved Raab away while shouting across the Chamber at him. She was, if it’s possible, even more energised than the Prime Minister. 

The problem for Sunak is that he continues to offer a commentary on when people told him about serious allegations, often strangely much later than everyone else appeared to know them already.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles


Isabel Hardman
Written by
Isabel Hardman
Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

Topics in this article


Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in