“We’ve got a Prime Minister who has curled up into a ball and gone into hibernation,” Sir Keir Starmer asserted.
Odd to accuse Rishi Sunak of being a hibernating hedgehog, for here he was at the Despatch Box, wide awake and as nimble as a fox when he needed to be.
Sir Keir is a master of aggrieved and implausible assertion. When he said the nurses’ strike could be settled by getting round a table with them, this sounded implausible.
Sunak accused him of devising “a political formula for avoiding taking a position on the issue”, and declared: “He’s not strong enough to stand up to the unions.”
That brought a roar of approval from the Tory benches. They love the idea of Labour being in hock to its union paymasters.
Sir Keir ascended into the higher statesmanship. As this was “our final PMQs of the year” he wanted to finish by “thinking about our friends in Ukraine” and assuring them of our “unwavering support”.
A Christmas truce! At this rate we would find the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition playing football in no man’s land. There was a sense that the hostilities between them have settled down into a war of attrition, from which no rapid victory or defeat can be expected, and both sides would be happy to take a day or two off.
Angela Eagle (Lab, Wallasey), who every so often auditions for the role of Leader of the Opposition, told the House that this year “the Tory Party has given us five Education Secretaries, four Chancellors, three Prime Ministers, two leadership coups,…and the partridge has had to sell the pear tree to pay the gas bill.”
She said the best Christmas present the Prime Minister could give the British people was a general election.
To general relief, Sunak did not call one.
Danny Kruger (Con, Devizes; seen rising on the left of the picture above this article) said that “in light of the tragedy in the Channel this morning”, Britain must “do as Churchill did”, draft a new framework for refugees and human rights, and be prepared to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, “if necessary alone”.
A brave question, but not one to which the Prime Minister is yet prepared to answer “yes”. He maintains that the measures he announced yesterday will “deliver a system whereby a person who comes here illegally will have no right to stay”.