PMQs sketch: Boris Johnson gives lines when the public deserve answers

Boris Johnson learnt the hard way that having a prepared closing line for PMQs doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Sir Keir Starmer on Wednesday attacked the UK Government over the big fall in rape prosecutions, which have halved in England and Wales since 2016, with 98.6 per cent of reported rapes not ending in a charge or sentence.

This presented the Prime Minister, so often quick to accuse the Labour leader of not wanting to work together, with a chance to invite collaboration on working to address the horrific number of attacks on women and explore the reasons behind it.

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Instead, Mr Johnson accused Labour of not supporting tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offenders, before ending with his pre-prepared line.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to apologise for his comments.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to apologise for his comments.

He said: “We are getting on with the job. They jabber, we jab. They dither, we deliver. They vacillate, we vaccinate.”

It was a line written well before Sir Keir had stood up to speak, and one done with headlines in mind. On that at least, it will have achieved its purpose.

Labour are now demanding an apology, with expressing concerns about rape quite clearly not jabbering.

But this speaks to the great problem with this Prime Minister. He is a whirlwind of jokes and dismissal, blessed with confidence that whatever he says or does will be fine.

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This is a man who recited Kipling in a Myanmar temple, claimed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “teaching journalism”, which damaged her sentence, and said investigating child sexual abuse was “spaffing money up the wall”.

That is not to mention the alleged comments about bodies piling high. The PM’s instincts are to speak first and apologise never.

Critics are now talking about his comments and how offensive they are, rather than how the justice system is failing women.

More than half the courts across England and Wales were closed between 2010 and 2019. The Ministry of Justice budget cut of 40 per cent was so severe barristers held vigils for the justice system, and as London Mayor Mr Johnson supported policies that closed 65 police stations in the capital.

He is no authority on the subject of justice compared to the former head of the CPS, and his flippant tone may have again undermined any chance of a serious conversation.

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