After an unrivalled year of political shocks, the last PMQs of 2022 was decidedly familiar – with Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer settled on the attack lines we’ve all come to expect.
The clash – on the day Sunak surpassed Liz Truss’s 44-day stint as PM – was entirely focussed on the issue of tomorrow’s unprecedented nurses strike, with both Starmer and Sunak declaring each other weak on the wave of industrial action gripping the UK at present.
Starmer declared: “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief.” Sunak retorted in familiar fashion, attempting to goad the Labour leader into backing calls for a staggering 19 per cent pay rise for the nurses, or risk the ire of trade union donors by coming out against the strike.
Sunak’s strongest moment reflected this, telling Sir Keir: “If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so. If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of 19 per cent are met, he should say so.”
Starmer’s most memorable line called the nurses strike a “badge of shame” on the government.
While immigration has been a political football this week on the back of Sunak’s five-point migration plan, the issue was noticeably absent from PMQs save for sympathies from party leaders after the tragic loss of at least four people attempting to cross the Channel this morning.
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Starmer will hope that the familiarity of attack lines holds when the Commons returns after Christmas, given that Sunak’s polling momentum has stalled and Labour hopes are high on the back of a Savanta MRP poll which showed his party annihilating the Conservatives at the next General Election and securing a 321-seat majority.
The poll showed the Tories wiped out in large swathes of the country and with Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson and Theresa May all losing their formerly-safe seats. The Prime Minister may have to become more eviscerating in the Commons if he is to turn around this grim forecast.