Conservative party chairman Nadhim Zahawi is under investigation for failing to pay his taxes, a woman was murdered after an offender was mistakenly allowed to “walk free”, and Rishi Sunak is still short (but only a bit shorter than Keir Starmer), Sascha O’Sullivan debriefs on Prime Minister’s Questions.
As the saying almost goes, the first person to bring up Jeremy Corbyn loses the argument.
It’s how you know Rishi Sunak is riled in Prime Minister’s Questions, when he has little to fall back on other than the man who led the Labour Party now more than three years ago.
Though, in fairness, he does have a point: at least Sunak eventually quit Boris Johnson’s cabinet, while the Labour leader haunted Corbyn’s frontbenches long after it became clear there were grave concerns about anti semitism.
But this is old news, and like two school friends bitterly disagreeing on who was actually more popular or who threw the best sweet sixteen, it’s intensely boring for everyone else.
Keir Starmer knew this and figured hey, what the hell, I’ve tried going after this guy for being at the helm of broken public services, with people dying for want of medical care and a woman killed by a failed parole system, I’m going to go after his height.
While he didn’t quite squawk “you’re too puny for this job” at the pint-sized premier, he certainly alluded to it as he demanded to know if “the job (of Prime Minister) is simply too big for him?”
Cheap, but good, and filled our thirst for blood.
Really this PMQs was part of the long game for Keir Starmer: can he paint a picture of a country so broken by this tiny man leading the Conservative Party that he is a shoe-in for the next election.
The height thing was just for fun. Though in all honesty, Keir Starmer isn’t much taller, with a stature of 5ft 8, according to the ultra-reliable website CelebHeights.com.
So will an extra inch make him more prime ministerial?
Starmer, perhaps alive to this, started with a sombre tone following the murder of Zara Aleena, murdered by a man wrongly assessed by the Probation Service to be of “medium risk” to others.
Sunak’s retort of toughening sentencing laws and accountability at the Probation Service will carry little water after weeks of scandals at the Metropolitan Police, who have to somehow catch a criminal or two in order for them to be sentenced, sent to jail and wind up trying to get released.
Next up, was a Sunak PMQs bingo line, after Starmer started in on Nadhim Zahawi: “I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the inquiry.”
But Sunak didn’t know anything about tax dodging, he swore. He leaves sorting out his tax affairs to his wife and probably can’t understand why Nadhim Zahawi didn’t do the same.
“The issues in question occurred before I was prime minister,” Sunak told the Commons, “no issues were raised with me when (Nadhim Zahawi) was appointed to his current role.”
With the nous expected of the former Director of Public Prosecution, Starmer recognised a little of himself in Sunak: “Well Mr Speaker, he avoided the question”.
“I know he reads from his prepared sheets, but he should listen to what I said,” Sunak came back, with a cute quip, “I believe in proper due process.”
In a similar spirit, Starmer will be waiting for next week, this was just the amuse-bouche to a PMQs on February 1, when half the country is on strike.