Sir Keir Starmer mocks Tory infighting during Christmas-themed PMQs clash

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accused the Labour leader of ‘shameless opportunism’ by helping to block housebuilding reforms.

Richard Wheeler
Wednesday 13 December 2023 15:36 GMT
Starmer: Christmas is a time of peace on earth, has anyone told the Tory party?

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Louise Thomas

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Sir Keir Starmer mocked Conservative infighting by suggesting Rishi Sunak is a “donkey”, adding: “The search for three wise men may take a little longer.”

The Labour leader’s nativity jibe during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons came after he challenged Tory MPs to identify themselves for taking potshots at the Prime Minister ahead of the vote on the Government’s Rwanda asylum legislation.

Sir Keir went on to accuse Mr Sunak of being “utterly tone deaf” in his response to concerns over the plight of homeless children this Christmas.

Mr Sunak said Sir Keir had used some of his questions to talk about “political tittle-tattle”, saying: “What a joke.”

He also accused the Labour leader of “shameless opportunism” after the Opposition previously helped defeat an attempt by ministers to scrap EU-era rules on “nutrient neutrality” that force developers to mitigate the impact new homes have on river health.

Speaking at PMQs Sir Keir said: “Christmas is a time of peace on earth and goodwill to all – has anyone told the Tory Party?”

Mr Sunak, in a nod to Tory factions, joked in reply: “Christmas is also a time for families, and under the Conservatives we do have a record number of them.”

The Prime Minister defended his record over the last 12 months, but Sir Keir instead highlighted anonymous briefings by Conservative MPs.

He said: “He can spin it all he likes but the whole country can see that yet again the Tory party is in meltdown and everyone else is paying the price.

“Now he’s kicked the can down the road but in the last week his MPs have said of him: he’s not capable enough, he’s inexperienced, he’s arrogant, a really bad politician.”

Sir Keir said: “Well, they are shouting,” as he referred to the Tory benches, adding: “But this is what they said. Come on, come on. Who was it who said he’s a really bad politician? Hands up.

“What about inexperienced? Who was that? Or, and now there has got to be some hand for this, ‘he’s got to go’? Shy. Apparently he’s holding a Christmas party next week … how’s the invite list looking?”

Mr Sunak said: “He should hear what they have to say about him.”

Amid a noisy atmosphere in the chamber, Sir Keir said: “They’ve obviously found the donkey for their nativity. The search for three wise men may take a little longer.

“But while they fight amongst themselves there’s a country out here that isn’t being governed.”

Mr Sunak replied: “He talks about governing and he spent the first two questions talking about political tittle-tattle, what a joke.”

He added: “The most important thing is education, because that’s how we spread opportunity in our country and what did we learn? Where are the schools performing best in the United Kingdom? In England thanks to the reforms of this Conservative Government, rising up the league tables, giving our kids the start that they need.”

Sir Keir switched focus on to homeless children this Christmas and the Government’s housing policies, saying: “Rather than indulge in his backbenchers swanning around in their factions and their star chambers pretending to be members of the Mafia, when is he going to get a grip and focus on the country?”

Mr Sunak replied: “Rough sleeping in this country is down by 35% thanks to the efforts of this Government, hundreds of thousands fewer children in poverty today thanks to this Government.

“And when it comes to home building again … we just had the data this last week, within the last year an almost record number of new homes delivered, more than in any year of the last Labour government.”

Sir Keir countered: “140,000 children homeless this Christmas and he’s utterly tone deaf. The rise in homelessness shows how these Tory crises merge and grow and damage the country.”

He went in front of the cameras and said one thing and came in here and blocked it - typical shameless opportunism

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Sir Keir spoke about an 11-year-old who his homeless this Christmas, saying: “He wrote a letter to Santa saying ‘Please can I have a forever home, I don’t want any new toys I just want all my old toys out of storage, I just want us to be happy again’.

“If there is anything that could shame this Government into putting the country first then it’s surely this little boy.”

Mr Sunak replied: “If he really cared about building homes …”

As he was heckled, the Prime Minister added: “No, no, no, if he really cared about building homes, when there was an opportunity in this House to back our plans to reform defective EU laws, to unlock 100,000 new homes, what did he do?

“He went in front of the cameras and said one thing and came in here and blocked it – typical shameless opportunism.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves could be seen shouting at the Conservative front bench in response, with Sir Keir asking Mr Sunak: “Is that really his Christmas message to Liam?

“Cocooned in his party management breakfast he just can’t see the country in front of him of what they’ve done.”

Sir Keir thanked families and key workers, adding: “I wish everyone – including the members opposite – a very happy and peaceful new year. Will the Prime Minister join me?”

Mr Sunak said he had paid tribute to emergency workers at the beginning of the session before defending the Government’s record on helping families and criticising Labour’s plans.

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