PMQs: Keir Starmer accuses government of being ‘mired in sleaze, cronyism and scandal’

With the May 6 elections only just over a week away, there was plenty to play for in today's PMQs

10 Downing Street

With the May 6 elections barely a week away, there was plenty to play for in today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Many MPs took the opportunity to plea for votes for their respective parties. The PM was no exception. But it was Johnson’s refusal to answer questions that stood out the most this week.

From Tory cronyism to coronavirus to the Downing Street refurbishment scandal, here were some of the lowlights from this weeks’ PMQs…

1. Lies, lies, lies

The SNP’s Ian Blackford MP came close to accusing the PM of lying (Parliamentary rules prohibit MPs from accusing another of lying). He was referring to the alleged comment the Prime Minister made about “let[ting] the bodies pile high” rather than have another lockdown – a comment that he has vehemently denied.

Apparently without any sense of irony, Johnson then turned on leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer, accusing him of lying over wanting to remain in the European Medicines Agency.

It was pretty shameless given that the PM has lied repeatedly and refused to apologise to the house – including when he has repeatedly, wrongly accused Sadiq Khan of “effectively bankrupting” Transport for London.

2. Question dodging

Starmer called Johnson out for “never answering questions”. He then proceeded to refer the Prime Minister to the seven Nolan Principles (ethical standards expected of public officer holders) – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, openness, honesty, leadership which was not received well – over issues like the PM’s texts to James Dyson.

3. Cronyism in the Tory Party

Labour are going hard on the blatant examples of cronyism through the pandemic, including Tory donars winning massive government contracts.

Today Sir Keir accused the current government of being “mired in sleaze, cronyism and scandal”.

4. Downing Street refurbishment

Johnson tried to make questions about the flat refurbishment scandal sound trivial. He said PMQs should be a chance to discuss issues like “the state of the pandemic, vaccines, our economic recovery, crime and jobs” instead.

But the PM instead looked evasive when dodging questions about the flat refurbishment (the fact the Electoral Commission has now confirmed it will investigate the potential scandal over failure to declare a political donation). The Commission said it has “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred”.

In a heated exchange, Starmer gave the Prime Minister options as to who paid for the Downing Street renovations – “the taxpayer, the Conservative Party, a private donor or Mr Johnson himself”.

Johnson responded: “The answer is I have covered the costs… I conformed in full with the code of conduct and officials have kept advising me through this whole thing.”

Of course, “I have covered the costs” avoids the crucial question of who initially stumped up…

Lucy Skoulding is a freelance reporter at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter. 

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