Sir Keir Starmer uses PMQs to accuse Boris Johnson of running the country down

The Labour leader adapted a line used by Caroline Aherne in her Mrs Merton guise.

25 May 2022

Boris Johnson was accused of “running this country down” and mocked over an “inevitable” U-turn on a windfall tax during a rowdy Prime Minister’s Questions.

Just minutes after the publication of the report on lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer channelled his inner Mrs Merton when he asked the Prime Minister: “What is it about the Sue Gray report that first attracted him to a U-turn this week?”

During an appearance on The Mrs Merton Show in the 1990s, Caroline Aherne famously asked TV star Debbie McGee: “What attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

Mr Johnson replied: “There is no surprise about Labour’s lust to put up taxes.”

Mrs Merton, whose memorable quip to Debbie McGee, the wife of magician Paul Daniels, was channelled by Sir Keir Starmer (BBC/PA)
Mrs Merton, whose memorable quip to Debbie McGee, the wife of magician Paul Daniels, was channelled by Sir Keir Starmer (BBC/PA)

With inflation at a 40-year high, the Government has been repeatedly pressed to introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas firms to help fund support for those who are struggling.

Sir Keir said he wanted to use PMQs to focus on cost of living and said: “It sounds like he’s finally seen sense and the inevitable U-turn may finally have arrived.

“So when can people across the country expect him to use those oil and gas profits to bring down their bills?”

The Prime Minister responded: “There is nothing original about a Labour plan to tax business. They want to tax business the whole time, every day Labour wants to put up taxes on business.”

Mr Johnson later claimed Sir Keir “loves running the country down”, with the Labour leader replying: “He talks about running this country down, he is running this country down.

“It wasn’t just complacency on Labour’s windfall tax, which he’s now backing. It wasn’t just complacency on inflation, which is now through the roof. And it wasn’t just complacency on growth, which is now spluttering along at the back of the pack.

“Because his Chancellor also claimed that people should keep more of the rewards of their efforts, and then he put their taxes up.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (House of Commons/PA)

Sir Keir questioned how Mr Johnson’s “15 tax rises” since taking office have helped people keep more of their own money.

Mr Johnson replied: “What we’re doing is making sure after a huge pandemic that we’re funding our vital public services, which we can, because of the steps we’ve taken.”

He outlined minimum wage increases and changes to Universal Credit as ways the Government has helped people keep more money.

Mr Johnson added: “He’s completely wrong about this country’s growth performance, he runs it down, he was proved wrong about Covid and he’s going to be proved wrong again.”

Sir Keir countered: “Just delusional.”

He went on to warn over reports of a 500,000-passport backlog at the Home Office, noting: “That’s potentially more than half a million people worrying whether they will get away this summer.

“Can the Prime Minister reassure people that they won’t miss out on their holidays due to the failures of his Home Office?”

Mr Johnson said the Government has been “massively increasing” the speed at which the Passport Office delivers, adding: “To the best of my knowledge everybody is getting their passport within four to six weeks.”

The Prime Minister was heckled by the opposition benches as he attempted a run through of his greatest hits in office, which included a reference to Brexit and support for Ukraine, before criticising Labour MPs for their approach on defence matters.

Mr Johnson said of Sir Keir: “He campaigned to put Vladimir Corbyn, I mean, sorry Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.”

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