James Forsyth

Rayner hits Johnson where it hurts

Rayner hits Johnson where it hurts
(Parliament TV)
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The first PMQs of the year gave us a preview of the political debate we’ll be having for the next few months. Labour went after the government on inflation. Angela Rayner asked Boris Johnson why he had dismissed fears over it as unfounded back in October: Johnson denied he had said it — which is an odd claim given what he said in that interview.

She then punched the Tory bruise, by asking why Johnson wasn’t cutting VAT on fuel, as he had said he would do during the EU referendum. Johnson made the point that this help wouldn’t be well targeted, which is true. But the political pressure for this from Labour and his own backbenchers are going to make it very hard for him to resist.

Johnson, for his part, sought to draw a dividing line with Labour on Covid restrictions. He argued that when Omicron came, Labour wanted more restrictions but he went for boosters — it was an answer that effectively ruled out any further Covid restrictions.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Johnson and Rayner quite enjoying sparring with each other. Johnson always enjoys contrasting her energy to Starmer’s. There was one moment when Rayner joked that, given Johnson’s present difficulties, maybe she should be looking to take his job. Johnson feigned shock, for Rayner could only take his job if she took Starmer’s first.