Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Starmer has ‘dodgy Dave’ to thank for his best ever PMQs

(Parliament TV)

‘Keir today, gone tomorrow.’ The whisper before Easter was that Labour’s troubled leader might not survive until the next election but the spectre of Tory sleaze – which felled John Major’s government – has come to the rescue. Sir Keir started PMQs by alluding to David Cameron’s freelance activities for Greensill Capital.

‘Are the current lobbying rules fit for purpose?’ he asked.

Boris tried the ‘nothing to see here’ approach. He wants to smother the controversy by appointing a legal sleuth with a spectacularly dull name, Nigel Boardman, whose findings will be delivered in June. So for the next two months the PM can happily refer every question to ‘the Bored Man Enquiry.’ He’ll enjoy that.

And he cited the Lobbying Act of 2014 which, he claimed, had been passed by the Tories without Labour support. Ah but, said Sir Keir, that law was devised by the very man now in the spotlight: David Cameron.

The return of Dodgy Dave has affected the leaders in curious ways

Boris widened the issue and questioned Sir Keir’s closeness to Peter Mandelson who heads an international lobbying group, Global Counsel.

Sir Keir laughed at this. He said it reminded him of his old days as a prosecutor, (is there anything that doesn’t remind him of his old days as a prosecutor?). He called it ‘the shoplifter’s defence: everyone else is nickin’ stuff so why shouldn’t I?’

He did a Cockney accent on ‘everyone else is nickin’ stuff.’ Eight out of ten for the Phil Mitchell impersonation.

So Boris, as often happens in times of trouble, turned to his favourite political document: Labour’s 2019 manifesto. He said that Sir Keir’s party had proposed to loosen the rules on lobbying so as to facilitate the ‘obscure and opaque’ machinations of the trade unions.

But Sir Keir had an ambush ready.

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