PMQs: Rayner makes the most of rifts within the Conservative Party

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

It was the turn of Angela Rayner and Dominic Raab to face off at the despatch box this week, as Boris Johnson is attending the NATO summit in Madrid. The deputy Labour leader pushed the deputy Prime Minister to move against his absent boss, repeatedly demanding to know when Raab would decide that “enough is enough”. She poked fun at Johnson’s comment last week that he wants to remain in No 10 into the 2030s, telling MPs: “Britain can’t stomach this Prime Minister for another eight years. He’s own backbenchers can’t stomach him for another eight minutes.”

She discussed where the country might be by the 2030s if Johnson achieved this goal, noting that, on its current trajectory, the government would have overseen 55 tax rises by then, increasing the tax burden by £500bn. Rayner asked Raab how many more tax rises ministers would “inflict on working people” before he said enough is enough. The deputy Prime Minister shot back that Labour’s plan is “no plan” and highlighted Keir Starmer’s comments yesterday that the party was “starting from scratch” and that the slate had been “wiped clean”.

Raab argued that if Labour wanted to help working people, it would have opposed the rail strikes. He threw in a casual bit of a classism for good measure, noting that Rayner had attended Glyndebourne opera festival last week, telling MPs: “Champagne socialism is back in the Labour Party.” Undeterred, Rayner continued to pick at the rifts within the Tory Party – this time alighting on defence spending, she asked Raab how many troops would lose their jobs before (you’ve guessed it) he accepted that enough is enough and Johnson must go. She demanded: “When will [Raab] finally grow a backbone and tell the Prime Minister the game is up?”

Focusing on Raab’s personal responsibility to oust Johnson is clever. Tory backbenchers are reportedly growing frustrated at the failure of cabinet members to resign as a way of increasing the pressure on the Prime Minister to quit. As Johnson’s deputy, Raab may seem an unlikely target – but the same might have been said of Oliver Dowden a few days ago. The Prime Minister’s position remains precarious: toppling a single domino could bring the whole thing crashing down.

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