James O'Brien's instant reaction to "important moment" in PMQs

1 July 2020, 13:51

By Fiona Jones

This was James O'Brien's instant reaction to Prime Minister's Questions which he believed contained the "most important stylistic moment yet."

Labour leader and lawyer Sir Keir Starmer took on Boris Johnson in the Commons today and once again displaying calm and detailed questioning.

Sir Keir, mockingly called "brilliantly forensic" by the Prime Minister, gave a performance that was branded "stylistically the most important yet" by James O'Brien.

"We've seen Starmer deploy detail and we've seen Johnson tried to ride roughshod over it," he said.

James told LBC's political editor Theo Usherwood there was one significant moment, when a Tory backbencher heckled Mr Starmer and he "rose like a salmon to the fly", was about to take the bait, "and then he stopped."

"I think they have calculated that an almost preternatural level of branches is by far the most effective foil or weapon with which to fight this increasingly hollow bluster and, I use this word advisedly...histrionics."

Theo said as the House of Commons is not full due to social distancing, "that enables Keir Starmer to catch himself...the febrile atmosphere in the chamber works against him is the point that you're making."

James said he'd be fascinated to see how the Labour leader handles PMQs when the febrile atmosphere returns and questioned whether his controlled, assertive style would be less effective against the "baying mobs."

Theo observed that in PMQs Sir Keir "lays out the reality of the situation, he makes a mildly rhetorical point about that situation and what view it casts on the government, and then he asks an incisive question."

All Keir Starmer's points are linked, Theo said, such as his accusation that the local lockdown in Leicester was brought in 11 days too late, to which Mr Johnson replied the government responded brought in NHS resources on 8 June.

The Labour leader then countered that the PM lost a week of getting the virus under control and, Theo observed, "brings in the next question: "Well you lost a week of getting the virus under control", Theo observed, "and then brings in the next question: can you ensure this won't be repeated in other parts of the country?"

This led to the Prime Minister replying that the government faced problems in getting the regions to understand what they needed to do.