Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Why did Sunak sound so tetchy at PMQs?

Rishi Sunak at PMQs (Credit: Parliament TV)

The last Prime Minister’s Questions of the year always has a festive, pantomime tone to it. That doesn’t mean it is always a cheery, comfortable experience for a prime minister, though, and it wasn’t today. At least Rishi Sunak could come to the chamber with the knowledge that his Rwanda legislation had passed its first hurdle in the Commons, rather than on the back of an angry and sizeable revolt by Tory MPs. The PM received loud cheers from Conservative MPs as he stood up. He even cracked a joke about there being a ‘record number of families’ under the Conservatives – reference to the hilarious new mafia-style branding for the five groups of Tory MPs now co-ordinating their response to the Rwanda legislation.

That joke was in response to an amusing question from Keir Starmer about Christmas being a ‘time of peace on earth and goodwill to all’. The Labour leader added: ‘Has anyone told the Tory party?’

Starmer’s next question was rather more critical:

‘He can spin it all he likes but the whole country can see that the Tory party is in meltdown and everyone is paying the price. Now, he’s kicked the can down the road but in the last week his MPs have said of him he’s not capable enough, he’s inexperienced, he’s arrogant, a really bad politician. This is what they said. Come on! Who said he was a really bad politician? Hands up! What about inexperienced? Who was that? Or, come on, there’s got to be some hands for this – he’s got to go? Why! Apparently he’s holding a Christmas party next week. How’s the invite list looking?’

Starmer painted a picture of a country that wasn’t being governed while backbenchers were ‘pretending to be the mafia’

At this point, the Speaker interrupted and offered the traditional pantomime innuendo by telling MPs off for shouting, threatening that ‘you might not want the Christmas present that I could give you.’

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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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