Lloyd Evans

PMQs: Starmer can never quite skewer Boris

PMQs: Starmer can never quite skewer Boris
(Photo by Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)
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Sir Keir Starmer got through the whole of PMQs without telling us that his mum was a nurse and he used to run the Crown Prosecution Service. What a relief. Instead, he gave us a different look-at-me moment. Hailing England’s victory over Germany last night he confided that his pleasure was of a purer and more refined variety than anyone else’s, ‘having been at Wembley for Euro 96 and experienced the agony of that defeat.’

The Labour leader is running out of disasters to berate the government with. The economy is on the mend. Freedom from lockdown looms. He can’t mention the Batley and Spen by-election in case he loses. The Hancock saga looks promising but the sex stud who ran the health ministry is already history. The fumble-bunnies have fled their love nest leaving nothing behind them but a soft-porn video of their pre-lunch groping sessions.

Sir Keir set out to expose Boris’s bungling of Matt Hancock’s departure. First, the PM accepted his colleague’s apology and called the matter ‘closed'. Hancock was off the hook. But then he resigned and Boris claimed to have sacked him. Quite a feat by the PM to botch such a simple decision. His busiest minister gets caught cheating on his wife, breaching the lockdown rules and, possibly, breaking the law as well. And Boris says, ‘Excellent stuff, Matt, keep up the good work.’

The only thing in Boris’s favour was the timeline. Clearly, he had back-tracked, flip-flopped and U-turned but at least he had done so swiftly. And he kept using the same stock answer to Sir Keir’s questions. Hancock, he said, was in the soup on Friday and out of the door on Saturday. And now the Saj is in charge. So that’s it. Then he changed the subject and boasted that Britain’s super high-speed vaccine programme is now outpacing Israel’s.

Sir Keir had an ambush in store. He linked Hancock’s bed-hopping antics to a terminally ill constituent who was forbidden, under Hancock’s no-hugging rules, from physically contacting his kin as he lay dying. Sir Keir gave the story maximum impact by quoting the victim’s mother. ‘I’m livid,’ she said.

Profoundly tricky for Boris. All Sir Keir had to do was leave that comment in the air and watch Boris squirm. Instead, he moved to a different query about other rumours surrounding Hancock.

Not for the first time, Boris was cornered and Sir Keir let him go free.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford has the same problem as the Labour party. A dearth of calamities to blame on the Prime Minister. Blackford’s solution? Just make stuff up.

Today is the deadline for EU nationals seeking UK residency under the Home Office Settlement Scheme. So far 5.6 million have got their papers in order but Blackford isn’t happy. 

‘Hundreds of thousands,’ he said, ‘have been left in limbo.’ He didn’t quote a source for this colossal figure. Are they camping out in his Hebridean constituency? He blamed ‘government failure’ and added that, ‘thousands of our friends and neighbours could become illegal immigrants’. 

It doesn’t occur to him that EU citizens may listen to this alarmist twaddle and actually believe it. He suggested, incorrectly, that anyone who misses today’s deadline will face ‘dawn raids’ and ‘a hostile environment’. Adding a final threat, he stated that ‘vulnerable people’ would be deported. He makes the life of an EU national over here sound worse than being Britney Spears.

Perhaps he should be asked to stop spreading panic among migrants just to satisfy his taste for bully-boy rhetoric.