Isabel Hardman

Starmer exposed Boris’s chaos and confusion at PMQs

Starmer exposed Boris's chaos and confusion at PMQs
(Credit: Parliament TV)
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Boris Johnson and his ministers are inching ever closer to U-turning on a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies. Today the Prime Minister refused to rule out such a tax, telling Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer that 'we will look at all the measures' possible to tackle the cost of living crisis. Starmer retorted that the U-turn was now 'inevitable' and that the Prime Minister should just get on with it. Such is the extent of the government's chaos and confusion on this matter that the Prime Minister spent much of PMQs answering questions about why he wasn't adopting a variety of Labour measures including this tax and an emergency budget. 

As well as saying the government was considering all measures, Johnson appeared to prepare the ground for a tax by arguing that the reason these companies are in such a strong position was the sound economic management of his own party. That's the sort of line you produce when you're responding to complaints from a sector you've decided you definitely are going to levy a tax on, not a defence for not doing so. 

Johnson has been described by many recently as being in a very uncomfortable stasis as he waits for the conclusion of multiple investigations into his own conduct. Today he also seemed to be suffering from stagnating PMQs lines, trotting out familiar ones about Starmer not being able to define what a woman was, Labour's judgement in the pandemic and trying rather clumsily to shoehorn in others about the Queen opening Crossrail this week to make a point about his own legacy. 

Starmer, by contrast, seemed fresher. As part of his depiction of an ineffectual government, he quipped that Jacob Rees-Mogg was leaving notes on civil service desks 'like an overgrown prefect'. He also said Johnson was doing a 'hokey-cokey' over whether to go for a windfall tax or not. 

The Prime Minister was quite visibly struggling with whether or not to put his left leg in and announce another tax today, which is why he ended up sounding so tired and unconvincing: he clearly hasn't convinced himself yet that he's on the right course.

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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