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PMQs gives taste of political mud-slinging to come

Some Conservatives may be trying to force a change of leader, but at Prime Minister’s Questions we got a taste of the political cut and thrust we will see until the election, assuming Rishi Sunak remains in place.

Sir Keir Starmer darted around different issues, using each of them as an opportunity to land personal attacks on Mr Sunak. The Labour leader targeted Mr Sunak’s wealth and background, repeating a charge from earlier this month that the prime minister “doesn’t understand” Britain. His previous career also came under fire, with a claim that he was “making millions betting the misery of working people during the financial crisis”. But Sir Keir’s primary focus was on splits within the Conservatives.

He accused Mr Sunak of being “bullied” by his own party, after former minister Sir Simon Clarke called for him to be replaced as PM. In turn the prime minister went after Labour’s green policies, claiming the party’s £28bn investment pledge would mean tax rises. He also attacked Sir Keir for his legal career, pointing out for the second week in a row that he did legal work for Hizb-ut Tahrir, which the government proscribed as a terrorist organisation last week. And he labelled the Labour leader “the human weathervane” for his changing positions over the years.

It may seem like tedious political mud-slinging, or you may think these are the crucial questions of character which prime ministers and potential prime ministers must answer. Either way, get used to it. Meanwhile Sir Keir saw his boast that he had “changed my party” flung straight back at him when Mr Sunak faced questions about the situation in Gaza. MPs on the Labour frontbench looked angry to say the least as Tahir Ali, the MP for Birmingham Hall Green, claimed that Mr Sunak had “the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands” because of the government’s position on the conflict, as he called for “an immediate ceasefire”. That is not Labour’s official position. The Labour leader stared straight ahead, motionless, as Mr Sunak hit back to raucous cheers: “That’s the face of the changed Labour Party.”


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