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Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of “gaslighting” the British public over the cost of living crisis in a fiery session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

The Labour leader likened the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to “Thelma and Louise driving Britain into the abyss” and said freezing income tax and raising National Insurance contributions were examples of Conservative “stealth taxes”.

With a lovely ironic twist, Starmer criticised the Tories for claiming they are a “tax-cutting party” and branded them a “party of eye-watering waste” after being accused of “wasting” billions of pounds on unusable personal protective equipment (PPE).

He could not help himself but make several subliminal digs at Johnson over the ongoing Partygate scandal, telling the PM that he needs to “sharpen his interviewing” skills if he is questioned by the Metropolitan Police.

Johnson, who prior to PMQs faced more calls from Tory MPs to resign – including chair of the defence committee, Tobias Ellwood – was somewhat relieved that Starmer did not ask a single question about the Downing Street parties.

The PM was up to his usual tricks of outlining measures that have helped mitigate the “unprecedented economic crisis” caused by the pandemic, including schemes to help people back into work.

He also refused to apologise for the controversial claim he made on Monday that Starmer as Director of the Crown Prosecution Service failed to charge Jimmy Savile. This was despite Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle pleading with members that he will “not tolerate accusations of lying or misleading the House”.

The PM added: “I don’t want to make heavy weather of this but I am told that in 2013, he apologised and took full responsibility for what had happened on his watch. I think that was the right thing to do.”

PMQs over the last few weeks has been dominated by allegations surrounding the Sue Gray inquiry saga, so it felt refreshing to have a 30-minute session mainly dominated by policy rather than parties. With Tory MPs rowdier than ever, the PM was far more assured and confident in his delivery than his shambolic performance earlier in the week. Maybe there is life left in him yet.