PMQs: Starmer argues that Sunak is choosing to fail the British public

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

“Difficult decisions” was a phrase used repeatedly by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the run-up to the autumn statement last week. During today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Keir Starmer analysed the economic choices taken by Rishi Sunak’s government. Bringing up non-dom tax status yet again, the Labour leader demanded to know how much more the “super wealthy” people using the status would be required to pay following the autumn statement. When the Prime Minister failed to answer the question, Starmer did it for him, revealing that Sunak has not asked non-doms to pay a “penny more”, while a “typical household” will be paying an additional £1,400 in tax. “Every year, that’s £3.6bn thrown away because he won’t make them pay their taxes here,” Starmer said.

The Labour leader argued that this money could be used to fund training places for 15,000 doctors each year, declaring: “That’s what Labour would do.” He took a swipe at Sunak over reports that he is registered with a private GP practice, telling MPs: “We can carry on handing out tax breaks to the super rich, or we can live in a society where people don’t have to go private to get a doctor’s appointment.” Starmer set out the choices made by Sunak’s government as straight-forward trade-offs: instead of scrapping non-dom status, “we’ve got an NHS staffing crisis”; instead of making oil and gas companies pay “their fair share” through an effective windfall tax, “he hammers working people”; instead of delivering planning reform, “he kills off the dream of home ownership”.

As in previous weeks, Starmer focused much of his scrutiny on Sunak himself, accusing Sunak of being in “total denial” about the economic situation facing the UK and looking for a “pat on the back” like a “football manager bottom of the league at Christmas, celebrating an away draw three months ago”. He stressed that the country has seen “12 years of Tory failure, followed by 12 weeks of Tory chaos” and positioned the new Prime Minister as a continuation of this record: “Five Prime Ministers. Seven Chancellors. Why do they always clobber working people?”

Sunak’s last answer was probably his strongest, calling Starmer out on his own record – and ironically deploying an argument often used by the Labour left: “He says one thing and he does the other.” But his claim that voters can trust him to “deliver for the country” – while Starmer “deliver[s] for his party” – rang hollow following the Labour leader’s questioning. Starmer’s dissection of the choices made by Sunak’s government showed quite clearly how the Prime Minister has failed, and continues to fail, to prioritise the British public.

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