The Speaker
Thursday, 18 July 2024 – 18:55
©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor (CC BY 3.0)
Image Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor (CC BY 3.0)

Johnson’s government accused of ‘serial incompetence’ in first PMQs following summer break

PMQs returned to the House of Commons on Wednesday, with Boris Johnson facing Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer over the dispatch box for the first time since before the summer break.

Ahead of the session kicking off, some social media users posted about how they were excited for PMQs and interested to see what would happen. While PMQs regularly involves the debating of serious topics, the theatrical styles often used by politicians in the session, not least the Prime Minister himself, have long made PMQs one of those events to draw attention from much of the public across the country – especially after weeks of summer recess.

With it being the first PMQs since July, there were plenty of topics to be discussed, especially given recent events and government ‘u-turns’. It probably didn’t come as any major surprise that the first question posed by Keir Starmer, who was also celebrating his Birthday, was on the topic of school exams – or as he put it, ‘the exams fiasco’.

Returning to a ‘forensic’ style of questioning seen in previous sessions of PMQs, the Labour leader repeatedly asked for details from the Prime Minister about the exam results crisis, which eventually led to a government u-turn and the releasing of Centre Assessed Grades for most pupils at GCSE and A-Level.

Mr Johnson avoided some questions on the topic, instead launching multiple, some unrelated, attacks on the Labour leader.

In more heated exchanges, Starmer urged Johnson to withdraw one comment he made about the IRA – something he did not do. At one stage, Speaker of the Commons Sir Lindsey Hoyle stopped the Prime Minister while he was speaking, telling him to try to answer questions that had been put to him.

Criticising the government for a number of policy u-turns, with him claiming that 12 had taken place over the summer, Keir Starmer told the PM;

“This has been a wasted summer. The government should have spent it preparing for the autumn and winter.

“Instead, they have lurched from crisis to crisis, U-turn to U-turn.”

Starmer went on to accuse the government of “serial incompetence” and asked whether the Prime Minister will “take responsibility and finally get a grip”

Mr Johnson did say that he took full responsibility for everything that has happened under his government during his time in office, before going on to talk about achievements in tackling the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in the UK.

During PMQs, the Prime Minister faced several questions about the Job Retention (furlough) Scheme, which is starting to wind down. In particular, Ian Blackford urged the PM to extend the scheme in order to protect jobs.

Johnson argued that extending the furlough scheme was not the answer. He repeatedly mentioned the Government’s new ‘Kickstart’ scheme to help create work placements for young people on universal credit, using the scheme as an example of government policy beyond the furlough scheme.

The PM also called on Sir Keir Starmer to say that it is safe for people go back to work, having already asked him to say it is safe for schools to reopen.

Overall, the first PMQs back after the summer break was heated and there were multiple times where the Prime Minister looked uncomfortable, especially while avoiding answering questions. As the winter months draw closer, there could be plenty more heat inside the Commons chamber on a Wednesday lunchtime, with the Coronavirus, Brexit and many other topics to be up for debate.

Skip to content