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Keir Starmer accuses Conservatives of ‘dancing to tune’ set by Nigel Farage

Keir Starmer accuses Conservatives of ‘dancing to tune’ set by Nigel Farage

Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives are dancing to a tune set by Nigel Farage, Sir Keir Starmer has claimed.

The Labour leader used his headline Commons slot at Prime Minister’s Questions to suggest the governing party is no “longer the Tories your parents voted for” and has become the “political wing of the Flat Earth Society”, as he mocked former prime minister Liz Truss.

But Mr Sunak hit back, drawing attention to Labour’s record on antisemitism ahead of Thursday’s Rochdale by-election.

Labour pulled support for its candidate, Azhar Ali, after reports emerged that he had blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of a pro-Palestinian MP.

Beginning a PMQs often interrupted by jeering and heckles, Sir Keir said: “Tory MPs spent last week claiming that Britain was being run by a shadowy cabal made up of activists, the deep state and, most chillingly of all, the Financial Times.

“At what point did his party give up on governing and become the political wing of the Flat Earth Society?”

The Prime Minister replied: “Well, another week where (Sir Keir) is just sniping from the sidelines because he has absolutely nothing that he can say on what we do.”

The Labour leader questioned why Mr Sunak is allowing former prime minister Ms Truss to remain a Conservative MP, telling the Commons: “His predecessor spent last week in America trying to flog her new book. In search of fame and wealth, she’s taken to slagging off…”

Amid heckling, Sir Keir continued: “They made her prime minister, now they can’t bear talking about her. In search of fame and wealth, she’s taken to slagging off Britain at every opportunity.

“She claimed that, as prime minister, she was sabotaged by the deep state. She also remained silent as Tommy Robinson, that right-wing thug, was described as a hero. Why is he allowing her to stand as a Tory MP at the next election?”

Mr Sunak replied: “I don’t believe a single member of this House supports Tommy Robinson. But if he wants to talk about former leaders and predecessors, the whole country knows his record because he sat there while antisemitism ran rife in his party and not once but twice backed a man who called Hamas friends.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

Sir Keir pressed the Prime Minister to reveal whether former Ukip and Brexit Party leader Mr Farage would be joining the Conservatives, after Ms Truss described him as the “man to restore the Tory Party”.

But Mr Sunak would not be drawn into answering, and celebrated the Conservatives’ record of diversity among its leaders.

“This diverse Tory Party just welcomed Nigel Farage,” Sir Keir hit back, to cries of “What?” from Tory backbenchers.

The Labour leader added: “This is the same Nigel Farage who said he agreed with the basic premise of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, and bemoaned the influence of the ‘Jewish lobby’.

“So is the Prime Minister simply too scared to stand up to the gaggle of Tory MPs, who moonlight as GB News presenters, or does he genuinely think Nigel Farage shares the ideals and values of the Tory Party?”

Mr Sunak said: “He wants to talk about values, but tomorrow in Rochdale the people will have the choice of three former Labour candidates, two of which are antisemites.

“The truth is, his party is so mired in hate that, despite three ex-Labour candidates standing, he can’t back a single one of them.”

The Prime Minister added: “We expel antisemites, he makes them Labour candidates.”

In his final question, the Labour leader said: “The truth is, these are no longer the Tories your parents voted for and the public can see it.

“The Prime Minister has lost control of his party to the hordes of malcontents, the tinfoil-hat brigade over there, the extremists who wrecked the economy, all lining up to undermine him, humiliate him and eventually to get rid of him.

“When will he ever stand up to them, and end the pathetic spectacle of a Tory Party that used to try and beat Nigel Farage now giving up and dancing to his tune instead?”

Mr Sunak replied: “Utterly shameless from someone who stood by while antisemitism ran rife in his party, oversaw the appalling situation in Rochdale and twice backed the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn).

“In the last few weeks we have seen Members of Parliaments’ homes surrounded, their events disrupted, council meetings threatened, and just last week we saw the very rules that govern this place abused because of intimidation.”

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said the question of whether Mr Farage would be welcomed into the Conservative Party is a hypothetical one.

“As far as I’m aware, we had no asks and anything about this is just entirely hypothetical,” she told reporters.

Mr Farage meanwhile described Sir Keir’s remarks as “an extraordinary attack on me”.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, he added: “He must have forgotten that millions of Labour voters agree with me (rather than him) on stopping mass migration and our increasingly unrecognisable cities.”