Lloyd Evans

Sir Keir Starmer let himself down at PMQs

Sir Keir Starmer let himself down at PMQs
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It was Sir Tier Starmer at PMQs today. Labour’s leader bounced into the Chamber with his bonce brimful of data about the three tier restrictions.

But it was all irrelevant chaff. Both leaders have broadly agreed to treat the UK population as lab-rats. The only difference is how the scurrying rodents will be managed.

Boris says his flexible method will curb the bug without clobbering the economy. Sir Keir wants a jackboot lockdown, amounting to a national curfew, starting this Friday. What Sir Keir can’t predict is what will happen if his circuit-breaker doesn’t break the circuit. Will he try to smash it again? If so, how many times before he admits failure? He ignored these problems and just carped at Boris’s experiment.

And he let himself down badly. Sir Keir has the same IQ as the board of Apple combined and he usually responds fast to unexpected answers. Not today. The PM dropped a bombshell about Greater Manchester’s emergency fund which the mayor, Andy Burnham had refused. Boris revealed that overnight he had nutmegged Burnham.

‘That cash [£60m] will be distributed to the boroughs of Greater Manchester.’

He thanked each borough for its co-operation and read out their names from a crib-sheet. Sir Keir appeared to have slept through that seismic announcement. When he got up he derided Boris’s ‘miserly’ treatment of Manchester and his failure to hand over £5 million. £5 million? He’d just bunged them 12 times that amount.

You can’t win a debate if you’re not listening to it.

Elsewhere, the House let Boris off the hook. The state of the Tory backbenches nowadays is somewhere between ‘do not disturb’ and ‘do not resuscitate’. Jo Gideon, who can’t even ask a three-line question from memory, got to her feet and frowned down at the words on her postcard. Putting on her best ‘unexpected-item-in-bagging area’ voice, she recited her script.

‘Will the Prime Minister join me on a virtual tour of Stoke on Trent central,’ she droned, ‘and a round-table with key partners focused on delivering for the left behind.’

Boris said he would. Philip Hollobone had a go. He was dressed like a chartered accountant, but he sounded like a Glastonbury hipster emerging from an MDMA coma. He muttered his way through a two-part query.

‘Will the National Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce be in involved in building Kettering General hospital?’

Unsurprisingly, Boris said it was ‘already involved’. Hipster Hollobone then took us on an anecdotal detour as he thanked the Prime Minister for sweeping down to Kettering General last February and appearing, as if by magic, during the night-shift. Boris looked thrilled at the memory. By the way, added Hollobone, could he bypass all that nasty red-tape and get the cement-mixers churning?

‘Indeed,’ said Boris. ‘I can assure him that the clinical modelling work is now complete and the site development is under way’.

These scripted routines are an affront to Parliament. If this continues, Labour should lobby for backbench members of the governing party to be excluded from PMQs.

Then Sir Ed Davey was called. The neckless knight made the House cringe with embarrassment when he mentioned a disabled constituent, aged 18, who can’t access his child trust fund. Sir Ed called this young adult, ‘Mikey.’ No surname, as if he were a Disney character. The man wants to spend his fund on a customised tricycle but large legal costs stand in his way. ‘End this injustice,’ said Sir Ed with a soppy smile. ‘Let Mikey buy this trikey.’

That’s why he needs a new motor. To get him to a constituency where he won’t be represented by a patronising buffoon.

Written byLloyd Evans

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

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