This was not Rishi Sunak’s PMQs. It was not Keir Starmer’s. It was Phil from Warrington’s. Phil is a new War of Jennifer’s Ear, 2024’s Gillian Duffy. Some poor journalists are almost certainly currently en route to an Iceland branch on the banks of the River Mersey to track Phil down.
A recap. Keir Starmer, having started off his PMQs with a nice line aimed at George Freeman, the minister who quit because his £118,300 salary wouldn’t pay his mortgage anymore, updated the House on his recent visit to a frozen-food supermarket (by happy coincidence, Iceland boss Richard Walker has just transferred his allegiance from Conservative to Labour).
“This week I met one of the employees at Iceland in Warrington, Phil,” said Starmer. Speaker Lindsay Hoyle immediately had to step in to curb the noise of the Tory benches, presuming discussing among each other what on earth this Tolkienesque-sounding corporation was. Ice-land?
“Laughing at an employee at Iceland who’s struggling with his mortgage,” said a saddened Starmer. “Shame. He told me that his mortgage is going up by a staggering £1,000 a month, prime minister. He doesn’t want other averages, other people, other stories, that’s what’s happening to him. If the member for Mid Norfolk, on £120,000, can’t afford this Tory government, how on earth can people like Phil?”.
Sunak did the whole Sunak thing on how, actually, everything is going great guns.
“Actually, thanks to the management of the economy, Phil and millions of people like him are now ensuring that inflation is less than half of the rate that is was when we were talking a year ago, putting more money in the pocket! And, thanks to this government, Phil and millions of others – not just at Iceland, but across the country – are benefiting this month, in their pay packets for a tax cut worth hundreds of pounds for someone on an average salary!
“But I hope he explained to Phil, explained to Phil, the cost of his policies. Did he explain to Phil, did he explain to Phil, how Phil is gonna have to pay for his £28billion spending spree, how it’s gonna cost Phil in higher taxes, more coming out of his pay packet, and did he explain to Phil that he’d be better off sticking with our plan rather than going back to square one with Labour?”.
Here a Phil! There a Phil! Everywhere a Phil-Phil! It was like the Alan Partridge scene with him shouting ‘Dan!’. But with Phil, obviously. Some poor Times writer has no doubt already been tasked with writing 1,000 words on ‘Will 2024 be the Phil election?’ for tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Andrew Bridgen, the former Tory, former (for seven months) Reclaim MP and now very much independent, asked a ludicrous question equating the Post Office scandal to – you’re ahead of me here – Covid vaccines.
Sunak straight-batted it, but eyes were raised by the enormous paperclip Bridgen had attached to the left-hand side of his suit. Paperclips were, it turns out, symbols of Norwegian resistance against the Nazis. Anti-vaxxers have now appropriated it. Fortunately, Bridgen will be an ex-MP very soon. Of him and his politics we’ve had our, er, Phil.