Keir Starmer kept smiling when Boris Johnson refused to walk into his trap

The Labour leader thought he had a clever question, but, as John Rentoul writes, it was the prime minister who had the cleverer answer

Wednesday 24 February 2021 13:57
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<p>Keir Starmer, slightly smiling, during PMQs</p>

Keir Starmer, slightly smiling, during PMQs

Keir Starmer has been told to smile at Prime Minister’s Questions. I don’t know what effect it has on Boris Johnson, but it was rather alarming for us journalists in the press gallery.

The Labour leader was smiling to himself as he stood to ask his first question, so he looked as if he had a killer point up his sleeve. It turned out that he thought he did indeed have a clever question to ask. He welcomed the principles behind the coronavirus recovery plan, saying that caution and irreversibility were “plainly right”. But, he went on, the plan was threatened by people spreading “misinformation”, saying that the roadmap is based on “dodgy assumptions” and “false modelling”.

One of Johnson’s defences is that his blustery manner is really a form of poker face: it was impossible to tell whether he recognised those phrases from some of the anti-lockdowners on his own benches. If he didn’t recognise them, some political sixth sense saved him from falling into Starmer’s trap. The Labour leader was obviously hoping the prime minister would condemn conspiracy theorists and fake-news peddlers, whereupon Starmer could declare with a flourish: “All those comments came from his MPs, some of the 60 or so members of the Covid Recovery Group.”

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