Lloyd Evans

Starmer certainly put more welly into it at PMQs

Starmer certainly put more welly into it at PMQs
Keir Starmer at PMQs (photo: Parliamentlive.tv)
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Last week, Sir Keir was monstered by his critics after a feeble performance at PMQs saw him he fail to trouble a wounded Boris. Even his closest allies were in despair. ‘Put some more welly into it,’ advised his deputy Angela Rayner.

Today we saw Sir Keir transformed and unleashed. He was flinging wellies in all directions. The search for his inner populist began with a reference to a film released 45 years ago.

‘The prime minister thinks he can perform Jedi mind-tricks on the country …. The force isn’t with him any more … He’s Jabba the Hut.’

He called Boris ‘the ostrich’ and said he was busy massaging the figures to pretend that our flat-lining economy is surging ahead on magical rocket boosters. In fact, we’re growing slower than anyone in the G20, bar Russia.

Boris’s Jesuitical explanation was that Britain had roared out of Covid so fast that our initial growth-spurt had temporarily eclipsed our rivals, but they were now catching up and taking over. His solution to soaring prices is to fling cash at every household in the land. Because extra money always curbs inflation …

Next, Sir Keir tried a Love Island analogy.

‘Contestants that give the public the ick get booted out.’

Did that hit home? Boris isn’t at risk of being 'booted out' by the public so the analogy rang false. As did the implication that the high-minded Sir Keir – whose mother was a nurse, remember – likes to watch a speed-dating show full of bronzed hunks and oiled bimbos.

Boris threw in an Egyptological reference about Sir Keir’s ‘Sphinx-like silence’ on the RMT strikes. Sir Keir threw it back and claimed that Boris was avid for the strikes to start. ‘He wants the country to grind to a halt so he can feed off the division.’

Unwittingly Sir Keir revealed his love of industrial action. It’s desirable because it stokes class strife which can be useful. That’s how he thinks.

The showboating continued as he whipped the house into a frenzy with an improvised game of Q and A. He read out a list of insults directed at Boris by Tory backbenchers. All anonymous of course.

‘He can’t win back trust … he’s dragging everyone down…His authority is destroyed.’ Sir Keir broke off and asked the Tories behind those slurs to identify themselves.

‘Come on. Hands up, hands up … You’re very quiet now.’

This was dire – like watching a wannabe DJ at a care-home jubilee party. Around him the shadow cabinet stared glumly at their shoes. Sir Keir is no cheeky-chappie comedian. He moved to his big finale which was a compendious list of Boris’s sins.

‘He’s totally deluded. Totally failing the economy. Failing to tackle inflation. Failing to back business …’

On he droned, like a philology professor reading the Shipping Forecaster in Esperanto. Even the Speaker got fed up.

‘I think we need to get to the end of the question,’ he said. Which made the Tories giggle.

So who profits from this awkward fiasco? Angela Rayner’s message to Sir Keir was intended for a wider audience, of course: Labour needs a leader who can put more welly into their speeches.

Who could she mean?

Written byLloyd Evans

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

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