PMQs: The cost-of-living crisis is Conservative made, Starmer makes clear

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Keir Starmer had a clear focus today: outlining that the cost-of-living crisis is Tory made. He described Boris Johnson as the “Comical Ali” of the crisis, pretending the economy is “booming” and problems are “global”. Why is he “failing to manage the economy”, the Labour leader asked – highlighting that the UK is expected to see the slowest growth and highest inflation in the G7 in 2023. Johnson fundamentally rejected the assessment, claiming the current crisis is one of “global inflation” that ministers are looking to tackle in “all sorts of ways”. This is, to put it mildly, a very creative spin on the extremely limited policy response discussed by cabinet.

“This must be the Oxford Union debating skills we’ve been hearing so much about,” Starmer quipped, referring to the Mail on Sunday article about Angela Rayner, which juxtaposed Johnson’s time at Eton and Oxford University with Rayner’s comprehensive school education. “Failing to answer the question, rambling incoherently, throwing in garbled metaphors – powerful stuff Prime Minister,” the Labour leader joked.

Starmer stressed that the crisis had been “blindingly obvious” for months and that Johnson had not only dismissed concerns, but supported a “tax-hiking” budget. He demanded: “Does he think that denying the facts staring him in the face makes things better or worse for working people?” To roars from the Tory benches, the Prime Minister hit back: “This is the party that supports working people – unlike them.” He rebuffed accusations of raising taxes, stressing the importance of the health and social care levy to address the NHS backlog and describing it as “pitiful that the party of Bevan should now be opposed to that investment”.

“He’s an ostrich, perfectly happy keeping his head in the sand,” Starmer told MPs. But, further than that, he hammered home the point that the Tories are not only ignoring the crisis, but worsening the situation through their policy decisions. Offering as an example the failure to pursue Labour’s proposal of a windfall tax on the excess profits of energy companies, the Labour leader stressed that the Prime Minister was choosing to protect company profits, while letting household bills “rocket” and increasing taxes for working people. “They’re the party of excess oil and gas profits, and we’re the party of working people,” Starmer concluded.

The Labour leader delivered a clear and convincing argument today: the Conservatives have had their ‘head in the sand’ throughout the ongoing and worsening cost-of-living crisis, and it is because of their choices that the UK’s economic outlook is looking increasingly grim. The raucous benches behind Johnson belie the reality that he is a leader in crisis, and one seemingly without an answer as to how to make things better for people faced with spiralling costs.

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