Sir Keir Starmer invited the House to contemplate, as one might a smashed piece of crockery, the asylum system. “Who broke it?” he asked.
The only people in the kitchen for the last 12 years were the Tories. “How can it be anyone’s fault but theirs?” he demanded.
Hard questions for Rishi Sunak. He kept his cool, but did not smile as much as on his debut last week.
The Prime Minister sought to demonstrate that his heart is in the right place: he is serious about fixing the problem, while Labour wants open borders.
“No one wants open borders on this side of the House,” Sir Keir replied in a righteous tone, a statement which produced a certain incredulity, but the PM remained quite unable to give any credible indication of how he proposes either to mend the broken asylum system, or to replace it with a new one.
Sir Keir asked how many of those who have arrived by boat in the last year have had their asylum claims processed.
“Not enough,” Sunak admitted. “It’s four per cent,” Sir Keir reminded him.
“You can’t attack a plan if you don’t have a plan,” Sunak protested.
But he was the one who looked most in need of a plan. The duty of the Opposition is to oppose, and this Sir Keir did well, keeping his questions short, relaxing into the role of a prosecutor confident of getting a guilty verdict.
Anthony Mangnall (Con, Totnes) worked in a contrived reference to Matt Hancock (Con, West Suffolk), who has absconded to Australia to take part in a degrading reality TV show.
Westminster got there long before with that kind of show. Every Wednesday at noon Sunak runs the risk of being degraded, and perhaps on this, his second outing, he was a bit too confident, and had not devoted enough time to working out what story he was going to tell, what possible explanation he could give for the broken asylum system.