Analysis: New Prime Minister, new style as Liz Truss brings actual debate to PMQs

Liz Truss made a confident debut at PMQs where the debate finally focused on beliefs, not bravado.

For so long sessions were reduced to personality politics, with a frustrated Sir Keir Starmer asking questions and Boris Johnson refusing to answer them.

It used to feel personal and venemous, with two leaders who clearly did not respect, let alone like each other.

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PMQs was not so much debate as a show, and while this offered glimpses of that, it ended with the Labour leader appearing to say “well done” to his counterpart and having a chat afterwards.

Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

Wednesday’s session also offered a clear dividing line between the two sides on policy, with the Commons enjoying a rare battle of ideas.

The energy crisis is the biggest issue facing the UK, and it’s not matter of what measures will help support families at this point, but instead who is going to pay for it.

Sir Keir’s first question was to ask if Ms Truss supported a windfall tax, something she opposes, despite the Government currently having one.

Labour is calling for a windfall tax on the bumper profits made by oil and gas giants to fund the package, reported to cost up to £150 billion.

Ms Truss instead is understood to put the cost on the taxpayer at a later date, all the while saying she does not want high taxation.

Both parties know they need to spend, and Labour’s different view allows Sir Keir to differentiate Labour after a period of Government support.

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He said: “The real choice. The political choice is who is going to pay. “Is [the PM] really telling us that she’s going to leave these vast excess profits on the table and make working people foot the bill for decades to come?”.

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His question is a smart attack, and frames it as taking the money from working people instead of company profits.

Ms Truss responded by insisting she did not support an extension of the windfall tax, and claimed cutting corporation tax would encourage companies to come to Britain and raise money.

She refused to give any details of her cost-of-living package, but Ms Truss will need answers for tomorrow if she is to defend copying Labour’s call for bills to be frozen.

On style, Ms Truss will be quietly happy with her performance, which was loudly cheered throughout by Tory MPs.

Most backed her rival Rishi Sunak, but as she joked about Labour’s failure to have a female leader or one not from “North London”, they will have been impressed.

The Prime Minister is not known as the slickest performer or gifted orator, but was on message and posed a very different challenge for Sir Keir.

Hers was a more business-like performance, and one Labour will need to adapt to facing.

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Sir Keir could not match Mr Johnson for style or charisma, and will be relieved he no longer needs to quote Love Island or deploy bad jokes.

Instead the debate will focus on policy differences, where he can hope his attention to detail can maintain his poll lead.

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