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PMQs sketch: A taxing affair

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Labour’s Big Business Week got off to a not-inauspicious start as Sir Keir Starmer gained the endorsement of Iceland chairman – and former wannabe Tory MP – Richard Walker.

But if he hoped that a C-suite level convert was enough to set Sunak’s tetch-o-meter rising, he was sorely mistaken.

Exuding the air of someone who’d nibbled a few extra nuts during Monday’s fast, the PM and his opponent needled each other with accusations of question dodging on everything from mortgages, taxes and Labour’s evergreen £28bn pledge. 

And Sunak had plenty of ammunition to hurl back, thanks in part to shadow City minister Tulip Siddiq’s choice of tortured metaphor on LBC this morning and Rachel Reeves’s decision to stand squarely behind bankers’ bonuses – reportedly a surprise to both Sunak and the shadow cabinet – amid the one-time alleged plagiarist’s apparent confusion over tax cuts.

She obviously can’t decide which Wikipedia page to copy this week,” he crowed. 

Despite mentioning supermarket worker Phil, who Starmer earnestly maintained is “worried about his mortgage” a total of 15 times, the Labour leader failed to generate the frosty atmosphere he was so blatantly aiming for.

It’s not clear that the Corbyn-esque tactic of laying the average voter’s plight on the Commons table across from the PM, like a cat dragging in bundle of feathers, did the trick – at least not judging by guffaws of Tory laughter. 

What was clear was the greatest hits parade of attack lines. Sunak hit the Labour leader with the £28bn question four times, reheated the Wikipedia comment, and reminded us all we’d be heading straight back to square one with Keir Starmer thrice. 

For his part, Starmer’s offering was a robust series of mortgages, tax, then mortgages, Phil’s mortgage, council tax, before finally he got bored of the merry go round and demanded an election. 

It was almost a relief to return to the usual suspects, as MPs jeered at Ed Davey’s return to the House in the wake of the Post Office Horizon scandal. Meanwhile, ‘freethinker’ Andrew Bridgen opted to compare the dodgy software to the Covid-19 vaccines, giving the PM a rare opportunity to be “unequivocal from this despatch box”.

“Covid vaccines are safe,” he insisted, while declining to state the same for his own electoral prospects. 

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