Boris Johnson was branded an “ostrich” with his head in the sand as Sir Keir Starmer raised cost-of-living concerns at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Tax rises in people’s latest payslips have the Prime Minister’s “fingerprints all over it”, Labour leader Sir Keir said before he labelled the Conservatives the “party of excess oil and gas profits” due to their rejection of a windfall tax to cut energy bills.
But Mr Johnson repeatedly claimed Labour has “no plan” and defended his Government’s economic record, saying of Sir Keir: “This guy is doomed to be a permanent spectator.”
At one stage during PMQs the Labour Party press office shared on Twitter a mocked-up image of Mr Johnson as the former Iraqi propaganda chief known as Comical Ali.
The session opened with Sir Keir calling on Mr Johnson to agree there was “no place” for misogyny in modern Britain following a Mail On Sunday article which suggested Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner crossed and uncrossed her legs during PMQs to distract the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson replied: “I repeat what I said to her, there can be absolutely no place for such behaviour or such expression in this House and we should treat each other frankly, with the respect that each other deserves.”
In response to Mr Johnson arguing global inflation was behind slower growth for the UK, Sir Keir told the Commons: “He sounds like the Comical Ali of the cost-of-living crisis.
“He pretends the economy is booming… but in the real world our growth is set to be slower than every G20 country except one – Russia.
“And our inflation is going to be double the rest of the G7. Does he think that denying the facts staring him in the face makes things
better or worse for working people?”
Mr Johnson replied: “The facts are, as the IMF has said, that the UK came out of Covid faster than anybody else, that’s why we had the fastest growth in the G7 last year. That would not have happened if we’d listened to captain hindsight.
“And if he studies their forecasts we will return to being the fastest by 2024 and the fastest in 2025. That’s what the IMF’s forecasts say… this is the Government, this is the party that supports working people.”
But Sir Keir countered: “He’s an ostrich – perfectly happy keeping his head in the sand.
“Working people are worried about paying their bills, they’re spending less and cutting back – that’s bad for business and bad for growth.
“Working people are looking for help but this week millions will look at their payslip and see a tax rise with his fingerprints all over it.
“Does he think his 15th tax rise has made things better or worse for working people?”
Mr Johnson replied: “What we’re doing for working people is not only lifting the living wage by a record amount, helping people on Universal Credit with a £1,000 tax cut, but also cutting national insurance contributions, lifting the threshold so that on average people pay £330 less.”
After raising Labour’s proposed windfall tax on oil and gas producers, Sir Keir said: “This Tory Government has had its head in the sand throughout the cost-of-living crisis.
“First, they let prices get out of control, then they denied it was happening, they failed to do anything about it and then they made it worse with higher taxes.”
Sir Keir was then heckled by Tory MPs as he finished with a campaigning message and details of proposals ahead of next week’s local elections.
Mr Johnson replied: “I have listened to him for many weeks, many years, this guy is doomed to be a permanent spectator.
“We have a plan to fix the NHS and social care – they have no plan.
“We have a plan to fix our borders with our deal with Rwanda – they have no plan.”
Mr Johnson continued insisting he has a plan before claiming: “Everywhere you look, a Labour administration is a bankrupt shambles.”