The Daily Telegraph

Johnson and Starmer trade blows over who dislikes Corbyn the most

- Michael Deacon By

For Jeremy Corbyn, resigning as Labour leader offered one consolatio­n. Never again would he be humiliated at PMQS. Or so he thought. Tragically, even that sole crumb of comfort has been denied him. Because yesterday – more than three months after his departure – he was humiliated at PMQS again.

Both Sir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson attacked him remorseles­sly. At times, they seemed more interested in attacking him than in attacking each other. Mr Corbyn wasn’t actually there, but his absence did nothing to discourage them. The theme of the day was the Russia report, and both men had their own reasons for making a show of denouncing him.

Sir Keir did it to reassure voters that Labour were now much tougher and more patriotic than in Mr Corbyn’s day.

“Under my leadership,” proclaimed Sir Keir, “national security is the top priority for Labour!”

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, focused on Mr Corbyn for two reasons: to remind voters why they disliked Labour so much in the first place and to divert attention from the report’s criticisms of his Government. Mr Corbyn, blared the PM, had “parroted the line from the Kremlin” over the Salisbury poisonings, and had “appeared on RT”, the state-backed Russian TV channel.

Sir Keir’s response: another barrage at his predecesso­r. “The Labour Party is under new management,” he barked. “No frontbench­er of this party has appeared on RT since I’ve been leader!”

They could have gone on like this all day. Imagine. “Mr Speaker, when will the Prime Minister face up to the truth, and admit that I have a lower opinion of my predecesso­r than he does?”

“The Leader of the Opposition must withdraw this appalling calumny, Mr Speaker. It is a matter of public record that my opinion of his predecesso­r is lower than anyone’s, and I refuse to have my position on this key issue so flagrantly misreprese­nted.”

When they weren’t arguing about Mr Corbyn, the two men did manage to touch on the report itself. Mr Johnson was clearly hoping that Sir Keir would suggest its findings invalidate­d Brexit.

Disappoint­ingly, however, Sir Keir didn’t mention Brexit at all. Still, having gone to the trouble of prepping so much material about it, Mr Johnson decided he might as well recite it anyway, and insisted that Sir Keir’s questions about national security were merely “motivated by the desire to undermine the referendum – the result of which he cannot bring himself to accept!”

For good measure, he threw in another of his jokes about Sir Keir’s supposed inconsiste­ncy. “He’s got more flip-flops,” bawled Mr Johnson, “than Bournemout­h beach!”

For once, though, Sir Keir had come armed with a joke of his own. “Flipflops?” he snorted. “This is the former columnist who wrote two versions of every article he ever published!”

At last, some solace for Mr Corbyn. Two insults in a row that weren’t aimed at him.

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