Rishi Sunak’s first PMQs

October 26, 2022

In his first day as PM, Sunak has assembled a Cabinet. His awareness of likely internal trouble -points has produced the inclusion of members regardless of political differences. The most controversial appointment is Suella Braverman, purveyor of right-wing muscular views on immigration. Braverman is popular with party members. Only last week she had resigned or been sacked by the outgoing PM for her cavalier disregard for security precautions . Her re-appointment as Home Secretary is already seen as an unwise move, presumed to be a political necessity, and one expected to be raised at PMQs

PMQs

I report the exchanges between new PM and arguably the PM in waiting, Keir Starmer. I use the abbreviation DATQ to indicate when the PM Did Not Answer the Question.

The customary warm welcomes and congratulations made on his appointment to an incoming PM.

Then

Q Was his Home Secretary right for resigning last week on a matter of security?

A She recognised her error.  

Q Have officials raised concerns?

A DATQ 

Q Should those with broadest shoulders pay most? (Labour pressing for a wealth tax)

A DATQ 

Q why not change non-Dom rules (Non domestic status rules)?

A Spending needs to be paid for

Q Will he undo funded formulas he boasted he had used to deprive deprived areas?

A There are deprived areas everywhere. 

Q why not call a general election?

A He tried to overcome our mandate which I will deliver

A Will he sack the Home Secretary?  

A DATQ 

Immediate reactions:

A robust debut giving some relief from the back benches. After the warm welcome, there was forensic targeting of the reappointment of Suella Braverman. Another expected attack was a pointed but subtler emphasis on privilege, wealth, and the PM’s own Non Dom difficulties. Non Domiciled status is a favoured tax avoidance strategy. Earlier in the year, the extremely wealthy wife of Rishi Sunak was the centre of criticism as a Non Dom, and has since renounced her status.

I pass over the sycophantic ‘questions’ of local constituency matters, and soothing responses.

The Times is reporting that Simon Care, the Cabinet Office chief Secretary was ‘livid’ at the reappointment of Suella Braverman. An urgent question about the matter was asked after PMQs. Govt response was that the Prime Minister has sole responsibility for such matters. 

Conclusions

Rishi Sunak has developed at the despatch box. He shows a capacity to think on his feet, but also avoids taking hostages to fortune in his replies.  He resorts to DATQ frequently, but as this is his Premiership debut, we will have wait to see what happens next. Press reports suggest that he appeared to be visibly controlling some first-night nerves

Rather over-politicised PMQ session, in light of the extreme financial crisis facing the country, which was only of secondary interest, except in the rhetoric deployed, from both Sunak and Starmer.

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