Boris Johnson has been accused of “blaming everyone else” for problems facing the country, amid claims he has “rolled over” on bankers’ bonuses.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Prime Minister the country is “screaming” for him to “get on with your job” and resolve the industrial dispute hitting train services.
He added Mr Johnson is more focused on increasing bankers’ pay rather than “those who are running the country”, as he contrasted Government calls for wage restraint against reports the Government wants to reduce controls on City bosses’ pay.
But Mr Johnson claimed Labour would take the UK “back to the 1970s” and said Sir Keir does not have the “gumption to speak out against the rail strikes”.
Ahead of key by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton, Sir Keir opened Prime Minister’s Questions by paying tribute to the candidates.
In reference to Conservative Nadeem Ahmed, Sir Keir said: “In particular, the plucky Conservative candidate for Wakefield, he is standing even though his own colleagues think he is so useless they held a vote of no confidence in him.”
As Tory MPs looked on puzzled, Sir Keir added: “Does the Prime Minister hold any personal interest in seeing if the public will vote for a Tory that even his own side don’t think is up to it?”
Mr Johnson replied: “I have absolutely no doubt that the people of this country and the people of Wakefield, and the people of Tiverton and Honiton, would much rather vote for a solid Conservative Government than for a Labour Party, their enablers and acolytes in the Liberal Democrats, the karma chameleons of British politics.”
Sir Keir said Mr Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps “haven’t attended a single meeting, held a conversation or lifted a finger to stop” the rail strikes.
He added: “But I did note that on Monday they did find time to go to a lavish ball where the Prime Minister sold a meeting with himself for £120,000… If there’s money coming his way, he’s there.
“So rather than blame everyone else, why doesn’t he do his job, get round the table and get the trains running?”
Mr Johnson said the Government is doing “everything we can” to prevent the strikes, before adding: “We know why he won’t condemn the strikes, we know why even now he hasn’t got the gumption to call out his MPs for going out to support the pickets.”
He also claimed that 25 Labour MPs out on the picket line were “defying instruction” from Sir Keir, and suggested Labour was backing strikers, not “strivers”.
Sir Keir countered: “He can’t help himself – there’s a huge problem facing the country and all he’s interested in doing is blaming everyone else.
“Can’t he hear the country screaming at him: get on with your job?
“Whilst he blames everyone and anyone, working people are paying the price.”
Sir Keir went on to raise the reports over proposed changes to City bosses’ pay, adding: “His chief of staff (Steve Barclay) says removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses is, in his words, reflective of our new approach.
“Pay rises for City bankers, pay cuts for district nurses – that’s the new approach. I didn’t see that on any leaflets in Wakefield.
“But this hasn’t come from nowhere because according to the Financial Times on June 7 last year the Prime Minister was directly lobbied for the cap to be lifted.
“Rather than help working people, he’s rolled over on bankers’ bonuses, hasn’t he?”
Mr Johnson replied: “What we’re actually doing is, thanks to the decisions we’ve taken, we’re putting money into the pockets of people up and down the country – £1,200 more for the eight million most vulnerable households.”
Mr Johnson said the Government was able to do this after taking the “tough decisions” linked to the pandemic.
Sir Keir insisted: “Fifteen tax rises, high tax, low wages, low growth – that sums his Government up. Working people paying more tax under this Government and now they’re told to take a pay cut.
“He’s having meetings about increasing bankers’ bonuses, but he can’t find time for a single meeting to end the strikes crippling the country.”
Sir Keir said armed forces personnel are also facing a real-terms pay cut, adding: “Why is his Government focused on increasing bankers’ pay than the pay of those who are running the country?”
Mr Johnson replied: “How absolutely satirical that he should talk about our armed forces when we’ve increased funding by a record sum since the end of the Cold War and eight of the shadow frontbench actually want to get rid of our nuclear deterrent.”
He said the Government is “cutting the cost of transport for working people by delivering reforms”, adding on Labour: “They’re out on the picket line literally holding hands with Arthur Scargill. It’s worse than under Jeremy Corbyn.
“This is a Government that is taking this country forward, they would take it back to the 1970s.”