Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Sunak and Starmer can’t help but trade identical insults

Rishi Sunak (Credit:

Another week, another Prime Minister’s Questions featuring the two party leaders trading exactly the same insult: you don’t believe in anything. Keir Starmer wanted to argue that Rishi Sunak didn’t believe in his own Rwanda policy, while the Prime Minister tried to claim that the Labour leader would say anything to get what he needed at any given moment in time.

Starmer entered the chamber with the upper hand, given the turmoil in the Tory party over Rwanda. He maintained it throughout the session, painting the Rwanda policy as ridiculous and inviting MPs to laugh at the Prime Minister as often as possible. He labelled the deportation policy a ‘farce’, and opened with a jokey question about whether the government had found the 4,250 asylum seekers who had disappeared. ‘Has he found them yet?’ he asked, to laughter.

It scarcely needed Starmer to point out that Sunak hadn’t answered the question

Sunak responded that ‘in spite of him blocking every single attempt that we have taken’, the government’s plan on immigration was working. ‘On this side of the House, we want to stop the boats. We have a plan, it’s working and under him we would just go back to square one.’ That last sentence is Sunak’s (current) election pitch: we’ll finish the job while Labour would take us back to square one.

It scarcely needed Starmer to point out that Sunak hadn’t answered the question, but he did anyway in order to make the story bigger. ‘My first thought is: how do you actually lose 4,250 people?’ He listed other examples of what he saw as being government incompetence, including HS2 spending and the row over the Elgin marbles. ‘Of course this farce of a government could lose the people it was planning to remove! He didn’t answer the questions, so I’ll ask him again.

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Isabel Hardman
Written by
Isabel 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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