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Rishi Sunak's Weakened Authority Looms Over Prime Minister's Questions

Rishi Sunak addressing the House of Commons at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) (Alamy)

2 min read

Labour leader Keir Starmer took aim at the continuing divisions in the Conservative Party at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), accusing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of not being able to "stand up" to his own MPs.

"He's now so diminished that his entire focus is stopping his MPs holding the sword of Damocles above his head – literally in the case of the Leader of the House," Starmer said of the Prime Minister, referring to perceived leadership maneuvers of Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt and her sword-brandishing display at the King's Coronation last year.

"You can see why he doesn't want an election, why his party have lost faith in him, why half his cabinet are lining up to replace him. No answers, no plan, no proof, and the Prime Minister has never had the courage to stand up to his party."

Starmer suggested that Sunak should address Tory backbench MPs and tell them that "mortgage mayhem" and long NHS waiting lists were the "costs of Tory chaos".

"If they can't bring themselves to stop the endless games and gimmicks, and stop putting themselves before country, they should pack up, go home, and waste somebody else's time," he continued.

It has been a difficult couple of weeks for Sunak, with his party's former deputy chair Lee Anderson joining the Reform Party after being expelled from the Conservatives, opinion polls showing no signs of shifting after the Chancellor presented the Spring Budget, and some Tory MPs reportedly interested in ousting Sunak for another leader before the next general election.

Though some MPs have dismissed the idea of replacing Sunak as absurd, the continued rumblings of discontent will mean the Prime Minister will be keen to try to win favour with MPs when he addresses them at the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative Backbench MPs on Wednesday evening.

At PMQs, Starmer also criticised the government's Rwanda deportation scheme, implying that Sunak was too distracted by his party's internal divisions to be able to implement effective policy.

"His great hope is to placate his party with a couple of empty planes, praying they won't notice when the flights stop going, the boats still come in and the costs keep mounting," Starmer said.

"How has he managed to spend £600m of taxpayer money on a gimmick to deport 300 people?"

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