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Prime minister’s questions: a shouty, jeery, very occasionally useful advert for British politics. Here’s what you need to know from today’s session in POLITICO’s weekly run-through.
What they didn’t spar about: It was a somber atmosphere in the Commons, thanks to events in the Middle East. Acutely aware that the usual PMQs squabbling would be a bad look, Labour’s Keir Starmer instead asked simple, non-partisan questions about the government’s investigation into the “incredibly distressing” Gaza hospital strike, rising antisemitism in the U.K. and work to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
It was all very reminiscent … Of the parliamentary exchanges between Starmer and ex-PM Boris Johnson at the beginning of the pandemic, when the Labour man had pledged to provide “constructive opposition” at a time of crisis. For PMQs, this kind of session remains a rarity.
News line I: On the hospital strike, Sunak said the international community “must not rush to judgment” without knowing the full facts of the bombing. Other world leaders have been quicker to judge.
News line II: SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn became the first party leader to call for an immediate ceasefire, which set him apart from the Labour and Tory leaders. Sunak didn’t agree, repeating his support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
Tory splits: The senior Tory — and Israel critic — Crispin Blunt said there was no one better placed than the PM to “urge restraint” from Israel and stop them from committing a “war crime” in response to the Hamas attacks. In response, Sunak said he would “urge Israel to take every possible practical precaution to avoid harming civilians and indeed to act within international law.”
Eyes emoji: Tory backbencher Jill Mortimer caused much murmuring when she stood up and said that — following an alleged attack on one of her constituents — most asylum seekers in her Hartlepool constituency are illegal migrants who should be “expelled”. She concluded: “I want these people out of Hartlepool now.” Sunak said the government were doing all they could to tackle illegal migration.
Not so somber: Before the serious stuff got underway, the Conservatives’ newest MP Lisa Cameron — who defected from the SNP last week — crossed the floor to take her seat on the government benches, to much cheering in the Tory ranks. Speaker Lindsay Hoyle did not enjoy the interruption.
Totally nonscientific scores on the doors: Both men sounded pretty much the same, as conflict in Israel and Gaza overshadowed proceedings — meaning for one week only no scorecard scores for Starmer and Sunak. The session underlined the consensus between the government and opposition on the conflict.