Boris Johnson grilled in PMQs over surging energy prices and new ‘partygate’ picture

Copyright: Crown Copyright (Creative Commons)

By Patrick Barlow

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism on fraud and the energy crisis during PMQs that saw him clash with Labour Party leader Keir Starmer.

Parliamentarians have quizzed him on the increase in energy prices and the government’s stance on preventing fraud.

The discount on energy bills, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week, was described by Starmer as “forcing people to take out a loan”.

The Labour leader also accused Johnson’s government of “insulting people’s intelligence by telling them they’re getting a discount”.

Johnson refuted these claims, saying: “Our plan for the country is working”, and that Labour “have no plan whatsoever, and I say plan beats no plan.”

The measures announced by Sunak would see a subsidy paid on energy bills in October, which would then be repaid over five years.

The Labour leader also criticised the Conservative government for not taking cases of fraud seriously in the wake of Business Minister Lord Agnew’s resignation over Covid-19 loans.

MPs also criticised Johnson over pictures emerging from another Government party, as well as the Prime Minister’s previous comments linking Starmer to the lack of prosecution of Jimmy Savile.

Keir Starmer/ HOC/Jessica Taylor /Creative Commons

“Surrounded by alcohol, food, and people wearing tinsel”

Johnson has also been linked to another party in Downing Street after a photo emerged of him supposedly at another lockdown gathering.

The photo, which is said to be from a gathering in December 2020, shows Johnson alongside Downing Street staff as part of a virtual Christmas event.

Restrictions at the time prevented social gatherings in London as part of Tier 2 lockdown measures.

The photo is believed to be from an event not already being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.

Labour MP Fabian Hamilton said: “In the last few minutes, a photo has emerged of the PM in Downing Street on the 15th of December 2020, surrounded by alcohol, food, and people wearing tinsel.”

“It looks a lot like one of the Christmas parties he told us never happened. Will the PM refer this party to the police, as it’s not one of the ones already being investigated?”

Johnson hit back at any suggestion that he was in any wrong, saying: “In what he has just said, I’m afraid he is completely in error”.

The photo comes amid mounting pressure for the Prime Minister to resign after Sue Gray’s release of the initial report on lockdown parties.

Opinion: “Johnson let of the hook by lack of accountability”

Boris Johnson has previously been described as like Teflon in that nothing sticks to him, and this week’s PMQs seems to illustrate just that, as he was not held accountable for a series of comments and gaffes.

The harassment of Keir Starmer by protestors seems to have come directly from the PM’s comments about failing to prosecute Jimmy Saville, comments which have since been proven false, and Johnson’s failure to recant is damning.

It is clear that these words have consequences, and Johnson’s ability to say what he wants seems to be putting other MPs at risk.

It is surprising to me that there was so little reference to these comments, as Starmer chose to focus on fraud and energy bills.

Whilst these issues are still vitally important to the British public, holding the PM to account over something that directly affected him is something Starmer should perhaps have considered.

Overall, Starmer seems to have let Johnson off the hook, and the Prime Minister lives to lead another day.

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