Boris Johnson has been branded the “Comical Ali of the cost of living crisis” by Keir Starmer, who accused the government of burying its head in the sand and standing by while inflation spirals and taxes rise for many.
The comparison to the former Iraqi minister who gained cult status for his outrageous lies came during a fractious prime minister’s questions, with Starmer saying Johnson was complacent about people’s “blindingly obvious” economic problems.
The Labour leader said a mooted plan to let motorists get MOTs lasting two years instead of one made the ill-fated 1990s “cones hotline” look “visionary and inspirational”. He said Johnson was “only just waking up to the cost of living crisis” and had acted like an ostrich.
Johnson accused Starmer of “droning on” and dismissed his call for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help bring down people’s energy bills, saying: “This guy is doomed to be a permanent spectator.”
In their final public pitches before next week’s local elections, the two leaders traded blows during a session that was focused mainly on the economy.
Johnson was tackled over an anonymous Tory MP’s briefing to the Mail on Sunday accusing Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, of crossing and uncrossing her legs in the House of Commons chamber to distract the prime minister.
Starmer said the UK was on course to have the slowest growth and highest inflation in the G7, and he said Johnson was failing to properly manage the economy.
In a series of targeted questions designed to pin responsibility for the cost of living crisis on the government, Starmer said ministers were making life worse for working people with last month’s “tax-hiking budget” and by failing to help those whose fuel bills have spiralled.
“They’re the party of excess profits, we’re the party of working people,” Starmer said.
He accused ministers of letting prices “get out of control”, denying it was happening and failing to do anything about it. “A vote for Labour next week is a vote for a very different set of choices,” Starmer said.
He said his party would ask oil and gas companies to pay their fare share, insulate homes to get bills down and close tax avoidance schemes by scrapping non-dom status.
But Johnson repeatedly branded Starmer “Captain Hindsight”, saying the cost of living crisis was affecting people around the world and insisting: “This government is tackling it.”
He said the recently published energy security strategy would “undo the mistakes of the previous Labour government” by pushing for a new nuclear power station to be built every year instead of every decade.
Johnson dismissed the windfall tax on offshore energy companies, saying it would “clobber the very businesses that we need to invest in energy to bring the prices down for people across this country.”
The prime minister said a record number of jobs were being created and the Conservatives’ plans were better than Labour’s “by a mile”.
He added: “Never forget, Labour-run Britain in 2010 – bankrupt because of what the Labour government did. They said they had no money left.”
The Guardian / The Independent