Wow. For Rishi fans, that was one to forget. The Tory leader lacked his usual fluency and focus at PMQs today. Instead of a hungry whippet leaping out of the traps, we watched a fretful hare being chased around the circuit.
Rishi’s sub-par effort coincided with a rare display of competence from Sir Keir Starmer who, for once, used clever tactics at the despatch box. He cooked up a difficult to answer question and asked it again and again. Why doesn’t he do that every week? Rishi kept parroting the same non-answers which made him look feeble. The issue was Rwanda, and Sir Keir accused the government of ‘losing contact with 85 per cent of the 5,000 people earmarked for removal… Has he found them yet?’ he asked.
Unprepared, Rishi flannelled and flubbered in general terms about large numbers of migrants arrested, bank accounts closed, claims processed at record rates. All irrelevant. Sir Keir went back to the disappearing deportees.
‘How do you lose 4,250 people?’ he said, translating his ‘85 per cent’ into a specific figure as a warning to Rishi that he’s not the only maths genius in the house.
Sir Keir then mentioned a handful of other Tory follies such as Rishi’s fruitless tiff with Greece over the Elgin Marbles and the HS2 money furnace. The bonfire has been scrapped and yet ‘the costs are still rising,’ said Sir Keir. And he returned to the unresolved question. ‘These 4,250 people the government have lost. Where are they?’
Dodging and shimmying, Rishi quoted an interview in which Sir Keir had vowed to scrap the Rwanda scheme even if it works. ‘He doesn’t have a plan. It’s back to square one,’ he cried.
‘That’s not a plan, it’s a farce,’ said Sir Keir.