Many individuals contemplate exchanges at PMQs largely pointless and, whereas typically they illuminate the important thing coverage arguments dividing the events, typically they don’t. At the moment the Johnson/Starmer contest was in that class. It didn’t actually take us wherever.
However typically the true viewers for PMQs is just not the general public at giant, however these within the chamber, and at the moment – greater than typical – it sounded as if Boris Johnson was primarily thinking about shoring up his standing with Conservative MPs. It’s fairly attainable that the Sue Grey report (about which we discovered nothing new at the moment, not even its timing) will set off a Tory no-confidence vote. In that case, Johnson should seem at a 1922 Committee hustings (a hustings towards himself, in impact). If you wish to perceive what he was as much as at PMQs at the moment, consider it as a rehearsal for the speech he’ll give there.
What did we be taught? The primary factor, in all probability, was simply that he’s up for the combat. The determine we noticed in that TV interview with Beth Rigby eight days in the past appears to have vanished. In any other case the pitch was the standard combination of boosterism and dishonesty (the declare the federal government is chopping tax is especially egregious), though Johnson did appear to be hardening his language on the Northern Eire protocol. (See 12.28pm.) Johnson did deploy a brand new assault line towards Keir Starmer, “a lawyer not a frontrunner”, which labored moderately nicely within the chamber. Apparently, the previous Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn claimed he used it first in a Telegraph column.
Judging by the noise, all this went down nicely with Tory MPs. However you already know what? At PMQs, or within the chamber typically, you possibly can’t decide by the noise. MPs, notably Conservative ones, are very able to cheering a frontrunner to the rafters whereas privately disparaging them and doing their greatest to take away them. It in all probability is the case that some Johnson loyalists have turn out to be extra keen to rally to his aspect in current days (we noticed that within the Michael Ellis UQ yesterday), however it could be a mistake to interpret the noise degree this afternoon as agency proof that opinion is shifting again in Johnson’s favour inside his parliamentary get together.
Starmer was suitably withering, but it surely felt as if he’s holding again till his subsequent encounter with Johnson – later at the moment or tomorrow – as soon as the Grey report is out. He bought Johnson to substantiate that he accepts the rule that he should resign if he has misled parliament, after which he argued that Johnson’s feedback about partying at No 10 final yr clearly present that he did lie. A few of Johnson’s critics imagine that this must be what forces him to go, however parliament does not likely have a physique keen to arbitrate on these issues (aside from the requirements committee, which has proven no real interest in changing into a PMQs fact-checking physique), and Johnson can argue that his “guidelines adopted always” statements both utilized to particular dates, or had been true to the very best of his information. (The ministerial code says “knowingly” deceptive the Commons is the issue, not any deceptive.) Starmer dropped this line of assault after his second query, maybe suggesting he thinks there are limits to how far it is going to take him.
Johnson used the “lawyer not chief” jibe in his ultimate reply, and so Starmer didn’t have an opportunity to answer. However Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labour Corbynite with kind for parliamentary hooliganism, rode to his defence by declaring: “I would favor to be led by a lawyer than a liar.” He acquired the anticipated rebuke from the Speaker, but it surely was the very best retort of the complete session, and never a nasty slogan for the opposition.