Boris Johnson mocked Sir Keir Starmer over his bungled reshuffle today – as the Labour leader faced another blow with the resignation of a close aide.
The PM jibed that Sir Keir was just making Ms Rayner ‘hungrier’ for power after he tried to sack her in the wake of the Super Thursday disaster – then gave her a list of job titles to stem a backlash.
The extraordinary twisting and turning was part of a bruising weekend of chaos for Sir Keir following the loss of the Hartlepool by-election and hundreds of council seats to the Tories.
He was eventually forced to carry out a much more limited reshuffle, with the hard-Left openly threatening a leadership challenge.
Sir Keir suffered another blow today as it emerged Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris has stood down as his parliamentary private secretary.
There are claims complaints had been made that Ms Harris was briefing against other shadow cabinet figures – although she suggested her exit was down to ‘trying personal times and an ever-increasing workload as deputy leader of Welsh Labour’.
Boris Johnson (left) jibed that Sir Keir Starmer (right) was making Angela Rayner ‘hungrier’ for power after he tried to sack her in the wake of the Super Thursday disaster – then gave her a list of job titles to stem a backlash
Sir Keir suffered another blow today as it emerged Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris has stood down as his parliamentary aide
Ms Rayner tried to make light about the PM’s jibe on Twitter after the exchanges
Sir Keir and Ms Rayner have been trying to paper over their differences, having been pictured having coffee in Parliament yesterday.
But there are claims that tensions have been building up for months as Sir Keir’s authority suffered a significant blow.
Mr Johnson teed up his gag in the House by praising Conservative colleague Katherine Fletcher for her seconding of the humble address for the Queen’s Speech.
He noted that the South Ribble MP was formerly a safari guide.
Mr Johnson went on: ‘She knows in any pride of lions, it is the male who tends to occupy the position of titular, of nominal authority, but the most dangerous beast, the prize hunter of the pack is in fact the lioness.’
One MP shouted ‘she’s behind you’ with Conservative former prime minister Theresa May positioned behind Mr Johnson.
The Prime Minister added: ‘I’m sure (Sir Keir) bears this in mind as he contemplates the member, his friend (Ms Rayner) – the deputy leader, the shadow first secretary of state, the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow secretary of state for the future of work – though the more titles he feeds her, the hungrier I fear she is likely to become.’
Ms Rayner then jokingly gestured to Mr Johnson that she was watching him.
She later wrote on Twitter: ‘The only title I’m hungry for, @BorisJohnson, is Deputy Prime Minister.’
After the Times reported that she had stood down after a complaint about her briefing activities, Ms Harris suggested her ‘ever-increasing workload’ was to blame.
In a statement, the deputy leader of Welsh Labour said: ‘It has been the proudest moment of my career to co-chair the campaign that saw Keir Starmer elected as Labour leader, and to serve as his PPS for the past year.
‘Stepping back from this role is the right thing at this moment, coming as it does after some trying personal times and an ever-increasing workload as deputy leader of Welsh Labour.
‘I have enjoyed every minute, and look forward to supporting Keir the best way I can in the months ahead.’
The Commons clashes came as Mr Johnson unveiled a Queen’s Speech to cement the ‘Blue Wall’ with moves to boost jobs, crack down on illegal immigration, and curb ‘woke’ culture.
The PM warned it is not enough to go back to pre-pandemic ways as the monarch laid out the package of legislation for the next parliamentary session.
In a state occasion stripped of most of the usual pomp and ceremony, the Queen – in her first major duty since the death of Prince Philip – said the country should be ‘stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before’.
Sir Keir and Ms Rayner (pictured taking the knee together) have been trying to paper over their differences
In an introduction to the new parliamentary programme, Mr Johnson said it is time to ‘build back better’ – hailing a huge drive to increase skills and ‘level up’ in areas that have fallen behind. The Tories made huge gains in many of those places in local elections last week, and are hoping to turn the screw on crisis-hit Keir Starmer.
There will also be action to reform the asylum system and crack down on illegal immigration, as well as moves to tackle ‘cancel culture’ at universities, and an overhaul of the planning system to make building homes ‘simpler and faster’.
But the government is already facing criticism after the speech included just nine words about social care provision – something Mr Johnson has promised to fix – and no Bill among the 30 or so slated.
And there is a major backlash after it was confirmed ministers are pushing ahead with ‘nanny state’ proposals for a total ban on online junk food advertising.
Mr Johnson faced off against Sir Keir in the Commons this afternoon for the first time since the extraordinary election results that sent Labour into a tailspin. Rumours have been sweeping Westminster that he now plans to call an early election in 2023 – with the PM set to take back control over the date for polls.