10 January 2024

Rishi Sunak branded a ‘Mr Nobody who doesn’t get Britain’ in PMQs clash

10 January 2024

Sir Keir Starmer labelled Rishi Sunak a “Mr Nobody” who “simply doesn’t get Britain” as the pair clashed over the Government’s Rwanda asylum plan.

The Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of not believing in the Rwanda “gimmick” and highlighted reports that Mr Sunak had reservations about the policy before taking on his current role.

He went on to claim Mr Sunak’s Government is “blissfully uninterested” in what is happening in the country beyond Westminster.

Mr Sunak countered by saying Sir Keir has “no plan” for the country, adding: “Stick with us to deliver the long-term change that the country needs – don’t go back to square one with him.”

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said: “Back in 2022 when Boris Johnson claimed he would send asylum seekers to Rwanda, one ambitious Tory MP had reservations.

“He agreed with Labour that it wouldn’t work. It was a waste of money, it was the latest in a long line of gimmicks. Does the Prime Minister know what happened to that MP?”

Mr Sunak replied: “What he refers to is a document that he hasn’t seen, I haven’t seen, and has been reported second-hand in a bunch of media newspapers.

“But what I can tell him is I am absolutely clear that you do need to stop the boats, and that is what this Government and that MP is going to deliver.”

Sir Keir said Mr Sunak had been “caught red-handed opposing the very thing that he has now made his flagship policy”, adding: “I notice he didn’t deny it. I am not surprised – £400 million of taxpayers’ money down the drain, no-one sent to Rwanda, small boats still coming.

“It is hardly a surprise he wanted to scrap the scheme when he was trying to sneak in as Tory leader.”

The Prime Minister replied: “I have always been crystal clear: you do need to have an effective deterrence to finally solve this problem. In fact the National Crime Agency agree that you need, in their words, an effective removals and deterrence agreement. And that is why after becoming Prime Minister I negotiated a new deal with Albania, thanks to which we have seen a 93% drop in illegal arrivals from Albania.”

After listing similar schemes by other nations, Mr Sunak added: “He (Sir Keir) is the only one opposed to a proper deterrent, not because it doesn’t work, but because he doesn’t actually believe in controlling migration.”

Sir Keir said Labour’s plan seeks to “smash the gangs, process the claims and end hotel use”, also saying of Mr Sunak: “Last year he started the year saying he was ‘Mr Steady’; then at his conference he was ‘Mr Change’; now he’s flipped back to ‘Mr More of the Same’, it doesn’t matter how many relaunches, flip-flops he does – he will always be ‘Mr Nobody’.”

The Labour leader also pressed Mr Sunak to “stop pretending that up is down, that black is white” and admit he has “failed” on the economy, immigration and the NHS.

Mr Sunak defended the Government’s record, adding of Sir Keir: “He talked about hotels – well, the first 50 are being closed and there are more to come.”

He added: “If he does care about smashing the gangs, why doesn’t he own up to the fact that when it came to the Nationality and Borders Act he blocked, delayed and voted against, the powers in that Act which have allowed us to now arrest hundreds and hundreds of people connected with that illegal trade, who have been sentenced to hundreds of years in prison.

“He opposed that because he chooses the criminal gangs over the British people every time.”

Sir Keir accused the Tories of having “lost control of the borders” before highlighting concerns over dentistry, flood defences and children not attending school.

The Labour leader said: “His Government appears blissfully uninterested in what’s going on outside the walls of Westminster.”

Mr Sunak defended the Government’s record on schools, adding: “It’s always the same with him – there’s no plan, it’s just peddling one thing to his union friends and another thing to the British people.”

Sir Keir countered: “New year, new nonsense. Every week he stands here and tells the country they should be thanking him, not questioning him.

“Point out that the view on the ground is very different to that from his private jet and he says you’re talking the country down. He just doesn’t get it, he doesn’t get what a cost-of-living crisis feels like.

“He doesn’t know any schools where kids no longer turn up, and he doesn’t understand what it’s like to wait for a hospital appointment.

“Doesn’t the country deserve so much better than a Prime Minister who simply doesn’t get Britain?”

Mr Sunak accused Sir Keir of failing to offer a “single new idea” in a recent speech, adding: “We’ve had four years of him as Labour leader and it’s still all slogan, no plan.”

He pointed to Government measures on taxes, immigration and welfare reform, adding: “It’s crystal clear, stick with us to deliver the long-term change that the country needs – don’t go back to square one with him.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox