During today’s PMQs, Angela Rayner faced criticism from Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden for what he deemed a “hackneyed” performance.
Substituting for Sir Keir Starmer, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition brought up former Labour Deputy Prime Minister Lord John Prescott while discussing Rishi Sunak’s attendance record. However, Dowden grew increasingly weary of her repeated references to the Labour peer.
Rayner began the session by highlighting the last time two deputies had handled consecutive PMQs, which occurred in 1996. She proudly stood in the same spot as Lord Prescott and took a dig at Dowden, remarking, “He’s no Heseltine.”
As Rayner raised the issue of the housing crisis and its impact on families facing repossession and homelessness, Dowden responded with a swift retort. He accused her of delivering a tired and overused performance in a bid to secure her position ahead of an anticipated reshuffle.
In her final mention of Lord Prescott, Rayner stated, “Just like the question time in March 1996, they can only offer excuses, not answers.
Lord John Prescott said to Lord Michael Heseltine that day: ‘How can the right honourable gentleman be so complacent in the face of sheer misery created by his government’s policies.’ 27 years on…why are we asking the exact same thing?”
Dowden’s response to Rayner’s comments indicated his awareness of an upcoming reshuffle, as he quipped, “I know there’s a reshuffle coming up on the other side, but this audition for John Prescott’s old job is just getting a little bit hackneyed.”
While Dowden’s retort appeared to resonate with the Tory benches, observers watching PMQs from home felt that it did not prevent him from falling behind his political opponent.
Some likened his performance to that of a “substitute teacher who’s lost control of the class,” calling it “painful” and suggesting the return of Rishi Sunak.
David Maddox, the Daily Express political editor, cautioned Sir Keir Starmer against dismissing Rayner in a potential reshuffle.
He argued that Rayner’s streetfighter instincts, which play well in the robust Commons environment, contrasted with Starmer’s technocratic approach and should be retained.