In the House of Commons yesterday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faced intense scrutiny and criticism from Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Labour Party, during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions. The session took a heated turn as Starmer directed pointed remarks at Sunak, questioning his priorities and accusing him of favouring his party cronies.
Starmer began by expressing condolences for the victims of a recent attack in Nottingham and the Grenfell Tower fire, highlighting the need for justice in both cases. He then swiftly moved on to criticise the Conservative party for focusing their attention on the allocation of peerages instead of addressing pressing issues affecting the public.
“All across the country, people are worried about their bills, the price of the weekly shop, and the spiralling mortgage rates, so why has the Tory party spent this last week arguing over which of them gets a peerage?” Starmer questioned, implying that the government was neglecting the concerns of ordinary citizens.
Sunak defended himself, stating, “My points on this are very clear. In line with a long-established convention of previous Prime Ministers having the ability to submit honours, I followed a process to the letter, in convention with long-standing process.”
However, Starmer accused the Prime Minister of hypocrisy, asserting that he did sign off on the honours list, which included individuals associated with the controversial Downing Street party held on the eve of the late Queen’s husband’s funeral.
“The truth is that for all his tough talk after the event, the Prime Minister did sign off the honours list. That means that those who threw a Downing Street party the night before the late Queen sat alone at her husband’s funeral will now receive awards from the King. If the Prime Minister is so tough, why didn’t he block it?” Starmer fired back.
Sunak continued to defend his actions, reiterating that he followed due process and convention, as previous Prime Ministers have done in the past. He further challenged Starmer’s understanding of the honours system, saying, “I would expect a knight like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to understand that.”
Undeterred, Starmer criticised the awarding of honours to “Tory cronies” and accused the Prime Minister of being weak in blocking certain nominations. He further alleged that those involved in covering up Johnson’s alleged lawbreaking were being rewarded with lifelong positions as lawmakers.
Sunak responded by pointing out Labour’s own controversial nominations, highlighting their choice to recommend Tom Watson, a former Labour MP known for spreading “vicious conspiracy theories.”
The back-and-forth between the two leaders prompted intervention from the Speaker of the House, who reminded the Prime Minister not to criticise other Members and redirected the session back to Starmer.
Shifting the focus, Starmer turned his attention to the state of the economy, attributing its struggles to the government’s internal conflicts and lack of attention to the country’s needs.
“The Tory economic crash means that millions of mortgage holders will pay thousands of pounds more next year, and the blame lies squarely at the door of a Government who are more focused on the internal wars of the Tory party than the needs of the country. Does the Prime Minister not think that those responsible should hang their heads in shame?” Starmer questioned.
Sunak emphasised that reducing inflation and borrowing were key economic priorities for his government. He criticised Labour’s proposed energy policies and accused them of jeopardising jobs and energy security.
In response, Starmer accused the government of failing to take responsibility for the economic damage caused by their policies and questioned whether Sunak would block his predecessor’s honours list, which included individuals associated with what he called the “kamikaze Budget.”
The Prime Minister defended his government’s economic record, highlighting record employment and wage growth, while portraying Labour’s economic policies as disastrous.
The fiery exchange concluded with Starmer urging the Prime Minister to call a general election and let the public decide.
As the session concluded, it was evident that the divisions and tensions between the two parties remain as strong as ever, leaving many to wonder how these political battles will impact the pressing issues facing the country.