Another tricky week for Sunak leaves Starmer spoilt for choice ahead of PMQs

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Last night, MPs passed Labour’s motion demanding that the government release documents relating to the contracts awarded to PPE Medpro during the pandemic. Leading the debate for the opposition, Angela Rayner urged ministers to “come clean” over claims that Tory peer Michelle Mone received £29m after she recommended the firm to ministers. The deputy Labour leader said Labour’s motion was a “plea for answers, a plea for clarity, a plea for the truth”. She called on MPs to “end the cover up and begin the clean up”. The passing of ‘humble address’ motions such as this is usually seen as binding on the government, unlike other opposition day motions.

Claims by Mone’s spokesperson that the allegations have been “unjustly levelled against her” took another hit yesterday evening when the Guardian revealed that a separate company that Mone lobbied ministers over was a secret entity of her husband’s family office. A source told the outlet that Mone was “in a class of her own in terms of the sheer aggression of her advocacy” on behalf of the company, LFI Diagnostics. Mone announced on Tuesday that she is taking a leave of absence from the Lords “to clear her name”.

The ongoing furore over Covid contracts is just one of a myriad of challenges facing Rishi Sunak this week. Following a climbdown on government housebuilding targets in the face of Tory opposition, the Prime Minister has capitulated to his backbenches for a second time in as many days, this time on onshore wind. The government announced on Tuesday that it will set up a consultation on scrapping the ban on new onshore wind farms. Former Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke’s amendment to the levelling up bill, which sought to lift the ban on new projects, had gained widespread support within the party, including from Sunak’s predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Sunak set out his personal opposition to relaxing the ban during the Tory leadership contest over the summer, noting the “distress and disruption” onshore wind farms “often cause”.

Keir Starmer is spoilt for choice on attack lines for Prime Minister’s Questions today. Will he continue with his current go-to criticism, that Sunak is a weak Prime Minister who week after week is being “pushed around” by his own backbenchers? Or will the Labour leader return to a previous favourite, attacking Sunak on his claim that he would restore “integrity, professionalism and accountability” at all levels of government, in the context of the PPE contracts controversy?

In Labour news, two more parliamentary candidates were selected on Tuesday evening. LabourList understands the results in Gloucester and Bournemouth East were delayed from the weekend because of the impact of the postal strike on postal votes. It was confirmed yesterday that Gloucester Constituency Labour Party has picked lawyer Alex McIntyre as their next candidate, while members in Bournemouth East have opted for Oxford City councillor Tom Hayes. We’re continuing to update our rolling list of parliamentary candidates – do keep checking back for any additions!

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