PMQs scorecard: Sunak and Starmer fight over who dislikes Liz Truss more

Liz Truss bore the brunt at prime minister’s questions

Keir Starmer brought up Liz Truss — whose sudden tax cuts helped trigger an economic crisis and tanked Tory polling — in an effort to link her staggering unpopularity to Rishi Sunak. | Kin Cheung/Getty Images

Prime minister’s questions: a shouty, jeery, very occasionally useful advert for British politics. Here’s what you need to know from the latest session in POLITICO’s weekly run-through.

What they sparred about: Liz Truss. Labour’s Keir Starmer opened proceedings by revealing that — like most of Westminster — he’s been reading the headline-grabbing utterances of the ill-fated former Tory prime minister in her score-settling new book.

Starmer’s book club: “It’s quite the read!” Starmer exclaimed. “She claims that the Tory Party’s disastrous kamikaze budget that triggered chaos for millions was, her words, the happiest moment of her premiership. Has the PM met anyone with a mortgage who agrees?”

Look over there! “He ought to spend a bit less time reading that book and a bit more time reading his deputy leader’s tax advice,” Sunak hit back — nodding at the ongoing police probe into Angela Rayner’s living arrangements. Zing. Starmer said the “billionaire” Sunak was “smearing a working class woman” — before turning back to his fave new reading material.

There was a point to it all: Starmer brought up Truss — whose sudden tax cuts helped trigger an economic crisis and tanked Tory polling — in an effort to link her staggering unpopularity to Sunak. Starmer wanted to point out that Sunak hasn’t ruled out the expensive proposal of scrapping Britain’s national insurance tax.

But but but: Sunak — who unsuccessfully fought Truss for the Tory leadership first time around — came prepared. He argued that he was louder than most when it came to warning against the ex-PM’s plans. “Everyone knows that two years ago I wasn’t afraid to warn about what her economic policies would lead to even if it wasn’t what people wanted to hear at the time,” Sunak said.

He continued: “I was right then. But I’m also right now when I say that [Starmer]’s economic policies would be a disaster for Britain.” The Labour leader seemed wrong-footed by the PM’s willingness to criticize the short-lived former Tory PM on the record.

In happier news for Liz Truss: Asked by Labour MP Daniel Zeichner what Truss’ greatest achievement was, Sunak said his predecessor was great at signing trade deals. Which, you’ll notice, she did as trade secretary, rather than as prime minister.

Much more importantly: Popping up at PMQs for the first time since his by-election win, firebrand pro-Gaza MP George Galloway asked Sunak to set out how his Tuesday night call with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu went, after Downing Street issued fairly limited details in the aftermath. Sunak said he told Netanyahu that “significant escalation is not in anyone’s interest” following Iran’s attack on Israel.

Source: Politico