PMQs June 29 review | A fiery affair missing the main attraction

This lunchtime, we went to the weekly performance that is Prime Minister’s Questions. We stuck to what we know, treating it as a gig, the review of which can be found below.



This lunchtime, we went to the weekly performance of Prime Minister’s Questions. We stuck to what we know, and reviewed it as a gig. Or at least tried to.

With Boris off at the G7 summit in Germany, readying the pecs of the powerful to combat Russia, today’s PMQs was missing its namesake and master showman. You could feel the disappointment in the audience as the absence dawned on them – when Rishi and Raab and Shapps and co. emerged on stage without their lead singer. Boris is, after all, still the man who draws the crowds – the enigmatic, irreplaceable frontman from whom, like a car crash, you simply can’t look away. 

Dominic Raab does not have the same effect. Still, what he lacked in natural charisma, he made up for in assuredness. Labour were likely hoping the stand-in might fluster. If he fumbled over some of his lines, might it throw off the backing band behind him? As it turned out, the Raab led renditions of Tory classics such as, ‘Getting On With The Job’ and ‘Delivering For The People’ were all in tune, appeasing, if not galvanising, the crowd. 

raab pmqs

It was not long before the typical House of Commons jeering began, however. The building is world-renowned for its atmosphere, fostering a unique combination of humour and hostility, despite not having the modern features and fancy sound-system of contemporary venues. 

Angela Rayner’s energetic performance introduced a tension to the room. She was fierce and relished the opportunity to get up to the stand and offer a more confrontational attack than Sir Keir’s occasionally tepid foreplay. Out of the blocks, Rayner challenged Raab with Labour hits including ‘What About Working People?’ and ‘How High Will Taxes Go?’ – the passion clear in her voice.  

angela rayner

On top of the old, tried and tested, classics, Rayner showed off some new singles. ‘While You Were On A Sun Lounger’, referencing Raab’s holiday during the recent Afghanistan crisis, drew jeers from both sides of the aisle. Raab riposted by accusing her of ‘Champagne Socialism’ – a Tory adaptation of an Oasis classic.  

Such was the liveliness of Rayner’s performance, certain members of the crowd, seated in the first few rows behind Dominic Raab, were repeatedly told to simmer down by the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Hoyle, as per usual, was a very capable moderator, ensuring that performers treated each other with at least a degree of civility, and reminding them that they serve their fans, and not the other way around. 

A side-effect of Rayner’s evident enthusiasm was Raab’s implication that she had designs on a more permanent role at the helm of Labour’s orchestra. While Starmer, looking on, will have admired his deputy’s ability, he will wonder whether this ever so slightly complicates his return as front-man. 

pmqs ian blackford

©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The lone weakness of Rayner’s performance, you have to say, was the heavy reliance on her new favourite tune, ‘Enough is Enough’. It went down very well the first couple of times she played it – jeers and finger wagging rife among the Labour contingent – but as she began to approach the half-dozen number, you felt it had lost its edge. 

Now, it would be remiss to not mention the one, the only, Ian Blackford. He knows his role in the PMQs production and he plays it well. The combative Scotsman had the SNP’s much anticipated new track, ‘IndyRef2’, behind his efforts this week. Long rumoured to be in the works for the band, it remains to be seen how successful it will be, now released, and if it will fare any better than its predecessor, ‘IndyRef1’, which proved disappointing for the SNP in 2014.

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