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James Forsyth

The Tories give Rayner an open goal

The Tories give Rayner an open goal
(Parliament TV)
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It sums up Keir Starmer’s political luck, or lack thereof, that he was at home with Covid today rather than at PMQs. The Owen Paterson row is an open goal for an opposition leader. The government has decided to whip Tory MPs to vote for an attempt to change the standards ruling. Starmer wasn't there to exploit it, so Angela Rayner got to take the shot. She hammered the Tories on the 'one rule for them, another rule for everyone else' theme.

There have clearly been flaws in the way that the standards commissioner conducts her inquiries. But seeking to change the rules right now looks dreadful. It provides Labour with lots of opportunities to attack the Tories, to claim — as Rayner did today — that when ‘they break the rules, they just remake the rules’.

At the end of their exchanges, Johnson complimented Rayner on having a ‘gigawatt more energy’ than Keir Starmer. It was both a recognition of the pressure she had put him under, and mischief-making. But even an opposition with its own internal tensions should be able to cause the government difficulties over this afternoon’s vote.