Lloyd Evans

PMQs: Starmer fluffed his chance to land a deadly blow on Boris

PMQs: Starmer fluffed his chance to land a deadly blow on Boris
Keir Starmer at PMQs (Credit:
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It’s tomorrow, isn’t it? The deadly hammer blow that ends Boris’s career will be delivered by voters in the crucial Yorkshire and Devon by-elections. But hang on. The deadly hammer blow was supposed to fall two weeks ago when he narrowly survived the no-confidence vote. Then again, the hammer blow was due to knock him dead when Plod gave him a fine for toasting his staff during lockdown. And that’s after he survived the deadly hammer blow that struck as soon as the cops began probing criminality at Number 10. Spare a thought for the poor guy wielding the deadly hammer. Soon he’ll die of exhaustion.

The Commons has tired of the never-ending Boris-on-the-brink story. He’s like a billionaire patriarch, aged 89 and a half, who refuses to do the decent thing and die. So his greedy heirs have stopped gossiping about their windfalls.

Labour seemed too knackered to take aim at the PM's wobbling authority. Sir Keir Starmer made a joke about a no-confidence vote organised by colleagues of the Tory candidate in Wakefield. But that’s all it was - a gag. An afterthought. His main point was that Boris had secretly helped City boys to keep their bonuses while starving the public sector of cash. That was his best shot. A Conservative prime minister cosying up to money-grubbers? It’s like complaining that the sea is salty.

Sir Keir had a fantastic chance. He might have made a stirring appeal to the by-election voters, and through them to the country, and urged them to turf out the corrupt and bungling Honey Monster. Instead he fluffed it and gave Boris free hit after free hit.

‘Unbelievable silence,’ said the PM. ‘He hasn’t got the gumption to speak out about the rail strikes.’

His contempt for barristers is legendary but today his blood was close to boiling. You could almost taste the venom dripping from his chops as he likened Sir Keir to a hack-lawyer scouting for clients.

‘The Labour party take £10 million from the unions. That’s the fee that the learned gentleman is receiving for the case he is failing to make.’

The more he urged them to condemn the strikes, the more Sir Keir shook his head and smirked mutely. His deputy, Angela Rayner, who loves tweeting selfies from the picket-line, yelled and gesticulated at Boris from her seat beside Sir Keir. Was she about to jump up and take over, in mid-session? She couldn't wait to sink her fangs into Big Dog.

After that, Labour threw in the towel. They soft-balled it. They didn’t challenge the government. They bent the knee. Their backbenchers meekly pleaded for whatever benefits were available from their wise and dynamic Tory overlords. The Conservative whips couldn’t have organised it better.

The MP for Coventry thanked Boris for his most recent visit and asked if he cared to support a mammoth new battery factory? Why, yes, he said. Munira Wilson needed help rescuing an Afghan judge from a Taliban death-squad. But of course, came the reply. A Labour member with her hair dyed a fetching shade of raspberry asked him to fund hormone replacement therapy for the womenfolk of her area. Naturally, Boris replied, anything to oblige.

And the backbench Tory poodle parlour was in full cry. Woof, woof, they barked in obedience to their master. Top Grovel of the Day went to Alexander Stafford, the munchkin for Rother Valley, who boasted about producing two jobs fairs, cadging an £11m grant from the Treasury, and establishing a ‘cutting edge employment village’. (Which is what exactly? An ‘employment village’ sounds like an office.)

Boris turned to Stafford and beamed like a City boy opening his bonus cheque.

‘He’s the best member for Rother Valley we’ve ever had!’ he chuckled.

But don’t forget. The hammer-blow lands tomorrow. Boris is finished.

Written byLloyd Evans

Lloyd Evans is The Spectator's sketch-writer and theatre critic

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