Tag Archives: Prime

PMQs: Starmer misses Johnson’s gaping-open goal, allowing the Tory to make a fool of him

Johnson and Starmer: we have a PM for whom the initials more appropriately refer to him as a Performing Monkey, but the ‘forensic’ former Attorney General is incapable of beating him, despite his incompetence.

Keir Starmer’s protestations of support for Tory government anti-Covid policies came back to bite him on the arse in Prime Minister’s Questions.

Two weeks after supporting the government in its decision to close pubs at 10pm, Starmer u-turned, demanding an explanation of the science behind it. He gave Johnson a perfect opportunity to land a knockout blow – and launch a new anti-Labour soundbite:

I was dismayed:

Sadly, that was the way of it for the whole of this week’s PMQs – as I had feared at the outset:

Look at the rest of my commentary on the confrontation:

He didn’t. But Johnson picked up on that failure and it led to the knockout later on.

As I write this, Jo Coburn on the BBC’s Politics Live is suggesting to Labour’s Stephen Doughty that Starmer wrote Johnson “a blank cheque” by offering his support “whatever restrictions are in place”.

That failure – that lack of closure – seems to have given Johnson the confidence to launch his own attack.

I could have done better:

Starmer is under attack at the moment, for his failures to lead an effective Opposition against the Johnson government.

On Twitter, the general public are at each other’s throats with many attacking him under the #StarmerOut hashtag, while others have tried to subvert that with an opposing line, #StarmerOutstanding.

In the real world, the union Unite has withdrawn 10 per cent of its funding because Starmer “isn’t listening” on matters of major importance (I’ll make more of this in a separate article).

If he can’t respond to these criticisms – as he failed to protect himself from Johnson soundbiting him into shreds – then he must seriously reconsider his position.

He is leading Labour into irrelevance.

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Peston’s client journalism: his fawning tweet about ‘saddened’ Johnson gets short shrift

Johnson and Starmer: political hack Robert Peston managed to get between them during PMQs with an ill-judged remark that has singled him out as a client journalist for the PM.

Sometimes you can tell how a nation feels by the way it reacts to the reporting of the news.

That’s what Robert Peston has been discovering after a particularly ill-advised tweet toadying to Boris Johnson. Here it is:

Johnson wasn’t saddened. He was annoyed that Labour leader Keir Starmer was asking pertinent questions about the failure of the Tory Test and Trace system and was desperate to deflect attention away from that failure.

We all saw it – those of us who were watching Prime Minister’s Questions. And some of us had a few sharp responses:

No – it’s client journalism. Peston was working in Johnson’s favour, trying to make the performing monkey PM look better than he is.

It’s a moment’s work that has been particularly damaging for Peston himself:

And it hasn’t done Johnson any favours either:

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‘Desperate’? Boris Johnson is clutching at straws as his party loses faith

Impotent rage: Boris Johnson is losing his grip on his party, as his incompetence as a leader becomes increasingly apparent.

Remember the old adage that repeating an action and expecting a different result is a sign of madness? It seems Boris Johnson hasn’t.

But then we already knew his grip on reality is tenuous at best.

The Observer is reporting that he is furious at the failure of his attempt to smear Labour leader Keir Starmer by connecting him with the IRA.

But rather than finding an alternative, he has instead reprimanded his advisers for leaving him under-prepared – and demanded more attack lines on Starmer, doubling down on criticism of his legal record.

It hasn’t worked; it won’t work.

Even where Starmer may be criticised, he knows those weaknesses and will have answers.

And of course Johnson will be laying himself open to analysis of his own past career – which consists of multiple claims of dishonesty and at least one high-profile sacking.

That won’t play well when he lays himself open to an airing of his faults at PMQs.

Meanwhile, his colleagues in the Conservative Party will be doing what they always do when they see a leader sinking; they’re sharpening their knives. Here’s The Observer:

There is evidence that the wider Tory party is losing faith in Johnson’s ability to lead them against Starmer – and signs that the chancellor Rishi Sunak has become the new favourite of the Conservative grassroots.

According to the latest survey of Tory members by ConservativeHome, the website for party activists, Johnson is now in the bottom third of cabinet ministers in the satisfaction ratings – having been the runaway leader nine months ago.

Johnson has slumped to 19th place, below Baroness Evans, the leader of the House of Lords, with a rating of plus 24.6%. Sunak meanwhile is out in front on plus 82.5%.

The verdict among the Twitterati is that Johnson is self-destructing:

You get the idea.

Who said Johnson would be gone by Christmas?

It seems likely he might be out a lot sooner.

Source: Desperate Boris Johnson to step up personal attacks on Keir Starmer | Politics | The Guardian

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PMQs: here’s how Badmouther Boris got from his exams failure to accusing Keir Starmer of IRA sympathy

Johnson v Starmer: in the PMQs battle-of-words, Starmer came out the clear winner against a prime minister that didn’t seem to know what question he was being asked to answer – let alone how to do it.

Prime ministerial failure Boris Johnson showed us all he had no answers about the ‘A’ level results scandal when he wandered off in the middle of PMQs and started accusing Keir Starmer of sympathising with the IRA – by proxy.

The Labour leader had asked a reasonable question – when did Johnson know that there was a problem with the algorithm used by Ofqual and the Department for Education to produce results, as exams hadn’t taken place?

Johnson’s response was not only an insult to everybody whose results were tainted by the system that upgraded private school pupils and marked down those at state schools – it was a direct attack on Starmer, with no reason.

He was clearly off-balance; he did not know what to say about the exams fiasco – so he groped for an attack on the Labour leader that he (or more likely his team) had clearly prepared in advance.

See for yourself:

This is Johnson’s tactic, it seems: if he’s asked a tricky question, he’ll throw a dead cat on the table.

The barb about supporting the IRA had nothing to do with anything at all – particularly not Keir Starmer who, as he said, prosecuted many terrorists in his former role as a lawyer and as Director of Public Prosecutions.

It was simply a means of distracting attention away from the fact that his government failed ‘A’ level students across the country and he did not have an excuse.

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Theresa May’s comment on pension entitlement is inaccurate by four and a half YEARS

Theresa May in Parliament – and don’t you wish she wasn’t? [Image: YouTube].

All of us – especially women affected by the change in the state pension age – should be grateful that David Hencke was on the ball during Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday (February 7). I was (and am) still suffering from a cold and was no use to anybody.

He spotted the following falsehood, uttered by PM Theresa May.

I would strongly advise the 6,000+ women aged over 50 who live in Hexham, Northumberland, to consider Mr Hencke’s advice about Guy Opperman.

There was an extraordinary error by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, when she was challenged by Ian Blackford, the Scottish Nationalist leader, at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.

Mr Blackford used one of his two questions to raise the plight of the 3.8 million WASPI women who have been hit by the government’s decision to raise the pension age from 60 to 65, then 66 and 67.

Mr Blackford asked: “A motion in this House last November, which received unanimous cross-party support—the vote was 288 to zero—called on the Government in London to do the right thing. Will the Prime Minister do her bit for gender equality and end the injustice faced by 1950s women.”

The Prime minister replied: “As people are living longer, it is important that we equalise the pension age of men and women. We are doing that, and we are doing it faster. We have already acted to give more protection to the women involved. An extra £1 billion has been put in to ensure that nobody will see their pension entitlement changed by more than 18 months. That was a real response to the issue that was being addressed.

3.8 million women waiting up to SIX years for their delayed pension have yet to get the message across. Theresa May just thinks you have a little wait of 18 months. And this £1.1 billion concession is just a future cost to the government over the next two years, no money has been paid out yet.

Source: 50’s Women:”Nobody will see their pension entitlement changed by more than 18 months” – Theresa May’s crass error | David Hencke


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Theresa May lied to Parliament about Accident & Emergency waiting times

Theresa May has been rebuked by the UK’s statistics watchdog for using a misleading comparison between the health services of England and Wales.

Sir David Norgrove said the minority prime minister had used two different measures to compare the waiting times in Accident & Emergency services in England and Wales.

She was trying to make Wales look bad in comparison to England.

Here’s his letter to the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones:

It says: “Thank you for your letter of 25 January, where you raised concerns about the Prime Minister’s comparison of accident and emergency performance in England and Wales.

“You are right to say that the comparison is not valid. The figure used for England refers to the accident and emergency wait time from the decision to admit to admission into another part of the health service. The figure used for Wales represents the entire time patients wait from arriving to leaving accident and emergency services, including the time from decision to admit to actual admission.

“Waiting time comparisons between UK countries are difficult, for a variety of reasons, including differences in data collection and in health service structure, the use of walk-in centres for example.

“It is clearly important to be able to compare health and social care service performance across the UK, particularly to learn lessons from different ways of doing things. I welcome current efforts to improve accessibility of the data and their comparability but strongly urge the need for faster progress.”

Of course, we know why Mrs May lied, don’t we? Or at least we can guess.

She wants to soften us up to the idea that the part-privatised English NHS is more efficient than the wholly-nationalised Welsh version. That way, she hopes to convince the public that private healthcare is a better option.

If the only way she thinks she can win the argument is by lying, then she has already lost.

The NHS is at its most efficient as a wholly-nationalised organisation, with funds pumped into providing the best healthcare possible for the people of the UK, rather than being funnelled into the pockets of rich executives and their shareholders who see health as a profit-making exercise for themselves, not a service to the country.

It is to be hoped that Opposition MPs remember this, next time Mrs May thinks it’s clever to commit contempt of Parliament by deliberately lying to her fellow MPs – and the public – and puts her on the spot for it.


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Maybot malfunction: She tweets speech full of nonsense

Mad-eyed May: The Maybot is clearly malfunctioning and should be packed back in her box.

“No change there, then,” I imagine Vox Political-dom assembled is thinking in response to the headline.

Take a gander at this:

Before you even press the ‘play’ button, you can see the stupid in the text. “Labour has turned its back on investment” – what? Labour has a huge investment programme planned! The details are in the party’s 2017 election manifesto.

“Growth” – except under the Tories, economic growth has stagnated and we are well behind the other G7 countries.

“Jobs” – well, zero-hours, part-time, non-paying jobs, maybe. Labour believes that people should receive a decent wage for a decent day’s work, rather than existing on subsistence pay that subsidises fatcat executives’ bonuses (think of Carillion).

Okay, now let’s press ‘play’.

The first thing you hear Mrs May say is, “The vast majority of people in this country in employment are employed by the private sector.” Yes indeed. That has always been the case.

“But the Shadow Chancellor calls businesses ‘the real enemy’.” Justifiably. Conservative policies have made it possible for bosses to cheat workers, cutting pay by – what? – 10 per cent over the last few years while executive pay skyrocketed. And the fact that people are now so cheap has discouraged firms from investing in new equipment, leading to the so-called “productivity gap” that Chancellor Philip Hammond falsely blamed on disabled workers.

“Labour want the highest taxes in our peacetime history.” For people whose salaries are in the top five per cent in the UK – those who have profited from the exploitation of the workforce. That seems fair to This Writer.

“Labour policies would cause a run on the pound.” Whereas all Mrs May has to do is make a speech about Brexit to create the same effect.

Then she utters the line quoted in the text of the tweet, which we’ve already covered, before concluding: “A Labour Party that will always put politics before people.”

No, Theresa. That would be you and the Conservatives.

Something has certainly malfunctioned in her somewhere.

Perhaps Maybot should pack herself back in her box and return herself to her manufacturer. She is faulty goods.


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May puts embattled Damian Green in the firing line despite sexual impropriety claims

Damian Green denies allegations that he harassed a young Tory activist [Image: Carl Court/Getty Images].

Theresa May has put a man under investigation for sexual impropriety forward to act as her deputy in Prime Minister’s Question, while she visits Jordan.

Damian Green will deputise for Mrs May in his role as First Secretary of State, even though he has been investigated after serious allegations were made about him – and the investigation has been completed.

But the result of that investigation has not been announced – and it is possible that it never will be.

It is a deeply suspicious state of affairs and one that cannot have escaped the notice of Emily Thornberry, who will be deputising for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The obvious questions are: Isn’t it more appropriate for a senior politician to be suspended while he is under investigation, rather than standing in for the prime minister? What did the investigation find? And why have its findings been withheld?

But will she ask?

Damian Green will deputise for Theresa May at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday despite being under investigation over allegations of sexual impropriety.

The first secretary of state, regarded as May’s de facto deputy, will stand in for the prime minister, who is visiting Jordan. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, will take him on.

Green has been chosen to fill in despite his political future hanging in the balance for several weeks while he is investigated by Sue Gray, the head of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office.

The senior civil servant has been deliberating over claims that Green harassed a young Conservative activist and downloaded pornography to a work computer. He denies both allegations.

The Cabinet Office declined to say whether the investigation had concluded or whether it would be made public when finished.

Source: Damian Green to stand in for May at PMQs despite conduct inquiry | Politics | The Guardian


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Why whine, Cameron? Labour can’t reverse Child Benefit cut because you cocked up the economy!

Child-Benefit

Either David Cameron is suffering a touch of sunstroke left over from his foreign holiday, or he is suddenly happy to admit he is a braying buffoon.

That is what we learned from his determination to continually harp on about Labour’s policy on child benefit during this week’s Wednesday Shouty Time (Prime Minister’s Questions).

Also that he has no answer to any questions asked of him about the Coalition’s failure to manage the NHS, or indeed, the national economy.

Ed Miliband’s first question today was about Accident & Emergency waiting times, but Cameron responded about child benefit. To the general public, that makes him a man with no answer.

Pressed on the issue, Cameron resorted to his old standby – waiting times in Welsh hospitals. The last time Mrs Mike was at a Welsh hospital, she waited maybe 15 minutes, between the time she arrived and the time of her appointment. More recently, I had to take a neighbour to hospital for some emergency medication for a mouth abscess. She was seen immediately.

Immediately.

And we live in Wales.

(I’m not denying that the health service could be better but improvements are constantly taking place – and what’s more, over here, they make changes in consultation with the public! I mention this to make the distinction between it and, say, coming out with hugely unpopular plans, halting the process for a so-called “listening exercise”, paying no attention to the results of that exercise and pushing through the original plans regardless. That’s the Cameron method).

We had no sense from Cameron about A&E – but was he making a good point about Child Benefit? Was Labour now supporting the Coalition’s decision to change it from a universal to a means-tested benefit, despite its bitter opposition when the cut (and don’t think it’s anything else!) was first announced.

Of course not. That would be silly.

The fact is that, if Labour comes back into office in 2015, the party’s leaders believe it will be extremely unlikely that enough money will be available to fund the restoration of universal Child Benefit.

That’s not a U-turn by Labour – it’s economic mismanagement by the Conservatives (and their little yellow enablers, the Liberal Democrats).

When George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010, he vowed to eliminate the national deficit by the next election in 2015. Some of you might have forgotten that; he said he would balance the books by then, making it possible for the (poor people of the) country to start on the national debt (because the rich people have parked £21 trillion in foreign tax havens and the Tories are determined not to do anything about it, even though collecting some tax would solve our problems in a stroke).

The 2015 election is now less than two years away. You might think the Coalition has done well, as it continues to claim the elimination of a quarter of the deficit. That was announced in 2012. In the year to 2013, it eliminated something like a quarter of one per cent of the deficit – maybe even less!

Borrowing continues to increase under this Coalition government. It has failed in its reason for existing.

That’s why Labour won’t be able to restore universal Child Benefit.

And that’s why David Cameron is a babbling buffoon.

The worm(tongue) turns – and not a moment too soon

I would like to apologise in advance to fans of JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy Lord of the Rings for the content of this blog.

You see, it occurred to me today that – in Nick Clegg and David Cameron – we can see a real-life parallel with the relationship between Grima Wormtongue and Saruman, the evil wizard who plots to be a dark lord.

Can Clegg be compared to Wormtongue? I think he can. For much of LOTR, Grima spends his time telling the people of his country that the best policy is to put themselves at Saruman’s mercy and let him ride roughshod over them, their homes and their livelihoods – much as Clegg has advised us to let Cameron ruin the UK.

Can Cameron be compared to Saruman? I think he can. In LOTR, Saruman plots to be a Dark Lord, as powerful as Sauron (who, as everyone knows, is the principle villain of the piece, portrayed memorably in the film version by a flaming, computer-generated eyeball). However, it turns out that Saruman just doesn’t have the ability to be a successful Dark Lord. He’s bad – but he isn’t very good at it.

In reality, Cameron wanted to be the Prime Minister because he thought he’d be “good at it”. After two years, we can look at his back catalogue of failures and U-turns and see how wrong he was.

As the novel has it, Grima finally turns on Saruman and stabs him in the back, killing him – which brings me to this week’s events concerning House of Lords reform.

Clegg has long cherished the idea of delivering constitutional reforms to the British Parliamentary system. Deprived, by referendum, of the opportunity to change the voting system to the Alternative Vote (which would have improved his party’s chance of getting Parliamentary seats), he fell back on reform of the House of Lords – a scheme which, his party claimed, had nothing whatsoever to do with Cameron’s plans to change constituency boundaries, cutting the number of of seats in the Commons down to 600 (which would have improved HIS party’s chance of getting seats).

This week, that idea was dealt a fatal blow – more because Conservative backbenchers refused to support it in principle than because Labour took issue with the scheduling of the debate. Lords reform has been dropped.

In retaliation, Clegg has announced that he will be instructing his MPs not to support boundary changes when the vote takes place – stabbing Cameron in the back, just as Grima stabs Saruman.

And the parallel can be drawn closer still, because both incidents hinge on side-issues. In the book, Saruman is causing trouble in the heroes’ homeland, out of nothing but spite, when he is killed. In reality, the boundaries issue is about making it harder for Labour to win Parliamentary seats – a spiteful attempt, by the Conservatives, at punishment for being kept in Opposition for 13 years.

But will the wound prove fatal? Cameron was doing his best to play down its significance immediately after, claiming that both Coalition parties would continue to work together to rebuild the nation’s economy. That’ll be a hard slog, because it is under the Coalition that the economy has slipped back into a recession that has grown deeper with every month that passes – fuelled, as we saw demonstrated in the Workfare case (see the immediately preceding post), by Coalition policies.

Commentators have already suggested that one way out for Cameron would be if Scotland secedes from the Union. That would deliver a cut in the number of Parliamentary seats and an increased likelihood of Conservative victory, given the current state of voting intentions in the seats that remain. So it seems unlikely that the Conservatives will fight very hard to keep Scotland in the UK.

Even then, though, what will the voters do? We’ve had a little more than two years of the Coalition and already the vast majority of the population are feeling the pinch, while having to watch the Coalition’s leaders and their big-business friends getting their snouts in the trough.

Future developments could be stranger even than fantasy fiction.