21 May 2020, The Tablet

Already one senses Starmer’s question-time ascendency in the making


Already one senses  Starmer’s question-time ascendency in the making
 

In the shadow of the pathogen, it feels almost indecent to return to crude calculations of political advantage. But the arrival of Sir Keir Starmer as Leader of the Opposition has changed the terms of trade at Westminster. I am writing this just after his second head-to-head with Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions and already one senses a Starmer’s question-time ascendency in the making.

At issue was the assessment of the risk of the coronavirus ripping through the nation’s care homes that Public Health England had made in early March and later changed. Starmer quoted chapter and verse. Johnson said he had got it wrong (he hadn’t). Starmer asked Johnson to return to the Commons to rectify his error (he didn’t).

PMQs have taken on a very different atmosphere too. Because of the Westminster version of “social distancing”, there are no massed ranks behind the leaders. Starmer is used to deploying a QC’s rapier in a quiet courtroom; Johnson is a club wielder, a performer who draws strength from the roars of his rank-and-file behind him.

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