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PMQs sketch: Boris bulldozes Sir Keir… but will he get buried by broken promises?

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Boris Johnson bulldozed Sir Keir Starmer with a trademark final riposte at their Prime Minister’s Questions clash over tax and social care.

“If we had listened to Captain Hindsight in July, we would not have the fastest growing economy in the G7, we would still be in lockdown...if we listen to him today, we would not be trying to fix the NHS backlogs and finally dealing with social care, this is the Government that takes the tough decisions to take this country forward,” he stormed.

Delighted Tory MPs bellowed “more, more, more....”.

The reaction of Labour backbenchers was, perhaps thankfully for Starmer, hidden behind their masks.

But the problem for the PM is he has a history with bulldozers.

He famously vowed to lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop a third runway at Heathrow.

But as Foreign Secretary he then flew to Afghanistan to avoid a Commons vote on giving the green light to Heathrow expansion.

And as he piled through PMQs amid the wreckage of three 2019 General Election pledges, on raising taxes, pensions and foreign aid, Starmer highlighted another promise circling the PM and which will almost certainly come into land before the next election.

The manifesto is clear that “nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it”.

But the PM refused to clearly repeat this pledge when challenged.

And this is Johnson’s big gamble with his £36 billion tax grab, will the extra funding deliver enough benefits to satisfy voters before they next go to the polls?

Starmer was rolling the pitch for the day he expects another Tory manifesto pledge to lie in ruins, no doubt having in mind that it was the “dementia tax” that did for Theresa May.

With a reshuffle having been dangled, Tory MPs, many struggling to swallow hiking taxes to historic levels, obediently nodded along to the PM’s offensives against Starmer.

Their Labour rivals must have been left wondering when their leader will land a haymaker on the PM rather than a forensic question in a political street fight.

There were some Tory rebels in the Commons led by May, though this was because she was one of the few Conservatives to be wearing a face mask, peer pressure no doubt forcing some of them to ditch coverings in such a crowded place.

On a roll, Johnson batted away the usually-effective SNP Commons leader Ian Blackford whose soundbite accusations of the Westminster government imposing austerity and a “regressive Tory poll tax” on millions of Scottish workers ran somewhat hollow the day after a £36 billion tax hike was announced, with London families bearing the brunt of it.

He also swatted away a call from Labour MP Peter Kyle to sack embattled Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, praising him for his “heroic” work during the pandemic.

“With a net approval rating among Tory supporters of minus 53, can the Prime Minister get to his feet, put his hand on his heart, promise the country, this House, and his own supporters, that the Education Secretary is the right person for the job, and is up to the job?” probed the shadow schools minister.

But the PM responded: “I think the whole House will recognise that the Education Secretary has done a heroic job of dealing with a very difficult circumstance in which we have had to close schools during the pandemic.”

Fulsome words...it will be a political first if a Cabinet minister hailed a “hero” is sacked 24 hours or a few weeks later.

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