Lloyd Evans

Starmer changes his PMQs tactics

Starmer changes his PMQs tactics
(Photo by Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)
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Sir Keir has changed his tactics. At long last. Today marks a year since the first Covid measures were introduced to parliament and the Labour leader has finally realised that the pandemic doesn’t work for him. Even the most brilliant ambush will be dismissed as opportunistic and unpatriotic. So he dropped the superbug altogether. And he trimmed down his usual bloated rhetoric and raced through his questions by 12.11 p.m. So we got five minutes less of the usual Starmer stodge. Boris was a bit wrong-footed by this nimbler and less loquacious opponent. But Sir Keir’s chosen topics — extending the furlough and keeping business rates low — stood no chance of embarrassing the PM. Wait for the budget, shrugged Boris.

This left lots of time for other members to air their anxieties. And most of their anxieties centred around their own careers. A typical Tory backbencher who says, ‘free port,’ ‘level up,’ or ‘build back better’ is clearly angling for a role in government. The most shameless display of grovelling came from Lee Anderson. ‘A new free port would create 60,000 jobs,’ he gushed. He even roped his parents into the act of obeisance. He said they’d voted Tory for the first time ever at the election, ‘and they were touched when the Prime Minister acknowledged that their votes were lent.’

Boris got up and thanked this genuflecting job-applicant. He even named the parents, Paul and Jenny. Was that a setup? It looked fishy.

Ian Blackford of the SNP seemed keen to forge a new role as a destitution expert. He started with a rant about the ‘Tory child poverty crisis’ to which Boris replied with his faintly creepy platitude about ‘putting our arms around the people of this entire country.’

'That was pathetic,' fumed Blackford. ‘That was no answer, we’re talking about 1.3 million children.’ Luckily Blackford has a solution. A summit conference starring himself and the PM. But this generous invitation carried a sting in the tale. If Boris declined, warned Blackford, he would reveal himself as ‘yet another Tory prime minister that leaves a generation of children languishing in poverty.’ Blackford likes this strange blend of tactics. He begs with contempt. He schmoozes with insults. He charms and cajoles with venom and hatred.

Finally we heard some important career news from Sajid Javid. The former chancellor has spotted that wealth and influence are moving away from elected governments and towards global elites like the UN and the green industrial complex. And he’s moving with them. He announced this today in coded language. Javid began by saluting a report into climate change commissioned by none other than himself. And he mentioned that the COP26 summit will coincide with the UK’s presidency of the G7. That doesn’t interest ordinary people like me. But to our global masters, it’s a highly significant alignment, like the convergence of two stars that burn with a single radiance. It augurs well for the lucky few. And Javid plans to take advantage, as he indicated.

‘The UK has been presented with a unique opportunity to show global leadership about how we can better protect our most precious asset — nature.’

‘The UK’ means himself, of course. And ‘a unique opportunity to show global leadership’ means a chance to get a job writing speeches about the evils of CO2 from the back of a private jet. Smart move.

Written byLloyd Evans

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

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