PMQs: Keir Starmer brands Boris Johnson ‘tin-eared and making it up as he goes along’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions. Photograph: House of Commons.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions. Photograph: House of Commons. - Credit: PA

Sir Keir Starmer has branded Boris Johnson 'tin-eared' and accused the prime minister of 'making it up as he goes along'.

Sir Keir said the prime minister's own MPs have 'run out of patience', following criticism from Tory backbenchers which saw one describe events as a 'mega-disaster from one day to the next'.

The Labour leader used his questions at PMQs to highlight the exams 'fiasco' over the summer, telling the Commons: 'We learned yesterday the education secretary knew well in advance that there was a problem with the algorithm.

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'So a straight answer to a straight question please prime minister: when did the prime minister first know that there was a problem with the algorithm?'

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Johnson highlighted the stress pupils and parents have undergone before noting exams could not take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, sidestepping exactly when he knew about problems.

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He went on: 'As a result of what we learned about the tests, the results that had come in, we did institute a change, we did act.

'The students, the pupils of this country now do have their grades and I really ask (Sir Keir) whether he will join me in congratulating those pupils on their hard work and whether he agrees with me that they deserve the grades they've got.'

After calling Starmer 'Captain Hindsight' the opposition leader retaliated that: 'The problem is he's governing in hindsight, that's why he's making so many mistakes.'

He said Johnson 'either knew of the problem with the algorithm and did nothing or he didn't know when he should have'.

As the prime minister continued to avoid the key questions, the leader of the opposition suggested the fiasco demonstrated Johnson's incompetence, using quotes from Tory MPs from the press which claimed he had overseen 'megadisaster' and 'calamity' in government.

He said: 'He's fooling nobody, even his own MPs have run out of patience.'

He cited one anonymous MP saying: 'It's mess after mess, his own MPs, U-turn after U-turn, it's a fundamental issue of competence, God knows what's going on, there's no grip. His own MPs are right aren't they?'

But rather than answer the accusations, Johnson distracted the Commons with talk of Starmer's support for Jeremy Corbyn and the suggestion he condoned an IRA supporter. It prompted calls for the prime minister to withdraw the remarks.The speaker interrupted to tell the PM: 'There are questions being asked, we do need to try and answer the questions that are being put to the prime minister, it would be helpful to those who are watching'.

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