Keir Starmer’s performance at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions featured one of the best structures of a leader of the opposition’s questions that we have seen in a long time.
The Labour leader read aloud the introduction to the ministerial code that Boris Johnson penned when he took office: “There must be no bullying, no harassment, no leaking, no misuse of taxpayers money, no actual or perceived conflicts of interest,” and then proceeded to work through each of the Prime Minister’s stipulations in turn. It provided a suspensful, devastating way for the Labour leader to raise each of the controversies currently surrounding the government, from bullying allegations against Priti Patel, to the leaking of plans for a second lockdown, to problematic PPE contracts.
Johnson dismissed Starmer’s questions as “trivia”, and got in jibes about Starmer’s handling of Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension, as well as arguing that Labour “hates the private sector”. Ultimately, however, the robust structure of Starmer’s questioning meant that Johnson struggled to take control of the narrative.
In the end, the Labour leader declared “a clean sweep”: “bullying, harrassment, leaking, wasting public money, and obvious conflicts of interest”.
It was a Prime Minister’s Questions in which we learned very little, if anything, that was new: the main event of the day is the Chancellor’s spending review, and the discontent among Conservative MPs at plans to cut the aid budget from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5, breaking a party manifesto commitment. But it allowed the Labour leader to tie together various recent damaging headlines against the government in perhaps his strongest PMQs since his election as leader.
[See also: How will Labour vote on a possible Brexit deal?]