Tories admit recalling MPs helps ‘rattled’ prime minister against Keir Starmer

PUBLISHED: 10:31 15 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:45 15 May 2020

Keir Starmer in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament.

Keir Starmer in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament.

HOC/JESSICA TAYLOR

Senior Tory MPs have reportedly admitted the call for MPs to return to the House of Commons is partly because they are concerned that Boris Johnson is appearing weak up against Labour’s new leader.

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A Downing Street official has told the FT that Boris Johnson has been “rattled” over the past two sessions at Prime Minister’s Questions with his Labour counterpart, and consequently as keen to get his MPs back into the Commons chamber as soon as possible to cheer him on.

“A lively environment probably does suit Boris more than Keir,” confirmed one Tory MP to the newspaper.

Another senior Tory MP said: “Starmer has the political wind behind him. He is a highly intelligent, detail-oriented person who was one of the best human rights advocates and prosecutors in the country”.

“Boris is in a political difficulty that isn’t going away for a while. He’s not a details person, who is struggling to articulate what the point of his government is because no one knows beyond Brexit. Put those two together and he’s going to struggle for a while.”


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A cabinet minister noted that Starmer “is forensic and deadly. I think the PM is worried.”

Even Tory supporting newspaper the Telegraph claimed this week that Sarmer had used the PMQs session to “take him apart like a Duplo train set”.

Officially the government has insisted calls for MPs to return are due to the huge amounts of legislation that needs passing.

Rees-Mogg explained to MPs: “The intention is for schools to go back. How can we say to our schoolchildren, “you’re safe going back”, some of them, but that we’re not, that we’re going to hide away whilst schoolchildren are going back - is that the right message to give to our constituents?”

One source pointed to chancellor Rishi Sunak voting against the government in an electronic vote as a sign that “the current system isn’t ideal”.

But yesterday the Lib Dems ruled out returning to parliament in physical form, with chief whip Alistair Carmichael saying: “I’m not going to put my family or my community at risk just because Jacob Rees-Mogg has an aversion to modernity.

“He’s like a Victorian mill owner having a bit of a spat because his gentleman’s club has run out of his favourite claret, that is no way to run a modern parliament.”

A senior Number 10 official denied the newspaper report. “Keir Starmer is the one who was rattled,” they said.

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