Boris and Keir: Not so Much Clash of the Titans.
How Boris must wish for the days of Jeremy Corbyn. When Boris could fend off Mr Corbyn's questions with bluff and bluster. However, since the advent of Sir Keir Starmer, replacing Jeremy Corbyn as the leader, Boris has found bluff and bluster, doesn't always work.
Yesterday's meeting between the Prime Minister and Sir Keir was their first since the summer break from parliament. It turned out to be a knockabout affair, with Boris dodging direct questions from Sir Keir and instead, insulting the Leader of the Opposition.
First of all, it was Sir Keir Starmer's birthday and Boris wished him a happy birthday. Then, the questioning of Boris began, with Sir Keir accusing the Prime Minister of wasting 2020 entirely and lurching from one u-turn to another. Whether it be, COVID, Brexit, the education debacle (children's exam results and kids returning to school on 2 September). Sir Keir asked Boris, a direct question about if he knew or not about the algorithm that destined the scores of the pupil's exams. Boris as per usual seemed to dodge the question and blustered about Sir Keir being negative about children returning to school. Sir Keir protested that he had said he supported children going back to school, referencing his own children returning. Sir Keir, cooly asked Boris the same question again, "Did the Prime Minister know or not, about the faulty algorithms"? Boris, once again accused Sir Keir Starmer and his front bench, about being negative about children returning to school.
Boris accused Sir Keir of being 'Captain Hindsight' and jumping on bandwagons. Sir Keir responded by accusing the government of governing with 'hindsight'. Sir Keir, pressed home his attack accusing the government of lurching from one disaster to another. Boris attacked Sir Keir, saying he was an IRA supporter because he was a minister in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet. Sir Keir, who normally is the embodiment of Zen-like cool, seemed to lose this demeanour. His face reddened up and he asked Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to get involved. Sir Keir demanded that Boris, retract the statement of Sir Keir being an IRA supporter. Lindsay Hoyle, a no-nonsense man from the northwest of England, agreed that Boris should take back this insult. Sir Keir told Boris directly, had he experience dealing with the IRA as Public Prosecutor as Sir Keir had? Had Boris dealt with the intelligence services monitoring IRA activity as Sir Keir had? In other words, Boris should keep his mouth shut if he does not know what he is talking about.
Most pundits working in politics agree that Boris didn't win this time at Prime Minister's Questions. Most of the time, Boris dodged Sir Keir's forensic questions. Or, answered by insulting Sir Keir or accusing him of sniping and being negative. The only blow (and it was a low blow) Boris was able to land on Sir Keir, was when he accused the leader of the opposition, of being, an IRA supporter.
Ian Blackford (SNP leader) then stood up and accused Boris and the Tories, of a smear campaign. The Daily Mail found out where Boris and his family were holidaying in Scotland. They sighted Ian Blackford, as a source of information for finding out the whereabouts of Boris holidaying. Mr Blackford said it was the policy of the SNP and other political parties, never to reveal the whereabouts of the Prime Minister on holiday. Mr Blackford denied sharing any information with the 'Daily Mail'.
Rishi Sunak, Tory golden boy and possible successor to Boris sat in the chamber bemused by all going around him. He seemed to be an apprentice Prime Minister in waiting, imagining one day, it might be him facing Sir Keir, either as Prime Minister or Leader of The Opposition. When Sir Keir referenced extending the furlough scheme beyond October, Sunak's eyes widened. Sir Keir, said Germany, France and Ireland were extending the furlough scheme to save jobs. Sir Keir said these nations wanted to preserve jobs for their citizens. Boris said Sir Keir wanted to keep people in suspended animation who wanted to get (if able) back to work.
Welsh Tory MP, James Davies, representing the Vale of Clwyd, said 'I'm A Celeb" is taking place in Wales this year. Some news outlets speculated that Boris probably wished he was in the show, rather than the bear-baiting pit that is the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, the latest polls appear to show Sir Keir as the clear favourite to replace Boris. Also, Labour again, according to polls, are level pegging with the Conservatives on 40% apiece.
A quick summary of the government's woes can be traced to the handling of COVID, the Dominic Cummings fiasco, and now the education exams cockup. All this is good news for the Labour party and for Sir Keir Starmer, in particular. However, both Sir Keir and Labour should hold their nerve and be quietly thankful that they appear to be gaining at the government's expense.