Keir Starmer needs catch-up lessons in how to ask Boris Johnson questions

The Labour leader seems to be going backwards in his attempts to hold the prime minister to account in the Commons, writes John Rentoul

Wednesday 09 June 2021 14:13
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<p>‘Let me take this very slowly for the PM,’ said Keir Starmer </p>

‘Let me take this very slowly for the PM,’ said Keir Starmer

The prime minister ought to have been in trouble today. This was the first time that the Labour leader had the chance to ask him about the resignation of Sir Kevan Collins, the government’s adviser on catch-up in schools. Sir Kevan did the principled thing when Boris Johnson refused to devote anything like the public spending he thought was required to education recovery.

Yet Keir Starmer was unable to embarrass Boris Johnson in the slightest. In part, that is because Johnson is so shameless, as he presented himself as the champion of disadvantaged children whose parents could not afford private tuition. But an effective leader of the opposition ought to be able to expose such bold overclaiming.

Instead, Starmer was reduced to responding, “Who does he think he’s kidding?” But this was PMQs, not PMRQs, Prime Minister’s Rhetorical Questions. It seems that, just as a generation of pupils have lost out on schooling during the pandemic, Starmer’s education in the art of asking Johnson questions has gone backwards. His second question was over a minute long, a recitation of spending figures per child over different periods in different countries. It allowed Johnson to slide into generalities.

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