Sir Keir Starmer

Starmer’s low blow at Sunak: Labour leader asks 5ft 6 premier if job is ‘too big’ for him in tax row

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Sir Keir Starmer appeared to mock Rishi Sunak‘s height as they clashed over the tax affairs of a senior minister at Prime Minister’s Questions today. 

The Labour leader aimed a low blow at the PM in an exchange about Nadhim Zahawi, who was absent from the Commons showpiece amid questions over a seven-figure sum he had to pay HMRC.

With the Tory chairman having decided to stay away from the Commons chamber, Mr Sunak admitted that he had decided to trigger a standards probe after ‘more information’ came to light about his multi-million pound tax settlement. 

The Labour leader branded him ‘hopelessly weak’ and made a thinly-veiled jibe at the stature of the PM, who is 5ft 6.

‘We all know why the Prime Minister was reluctant to ask his party chair questions about family finances and tax avoidance,’ said Sir Keir, who is believed to be 5ft 8.

‘But his failure to sack him when the whole country can see what’s going on shows how hopelessly weak he is – a prime minister overseeing chaos, overwhelmed at every turn.

‘He can’t say when ambulances will get to heart attack victims again. He can’t say when the prisons system will keep streets safe again. He can’t even deal with tax avoiders in his own Cabinet.

‘Is he starting to wonder if this job is just too big for him?’

A spokesman for the Labour leader later denied it had been a jibe at his height. 

The Labour leader aimed a low blow at the PM in an exchange about Nadhim Zahawi, who was absent from the Commons showpiece amid questions over a seven-figure sum he had to pay HMRC.

Mr Zahawi has insisted he has no intention of quitting and welcomed the prospect of an investigation by the PM’s independent adviser

Mr Sunak, who is 5ft6, with former Treasury minister Simon Clarke in 2020

After Sir Keir’s attack, Mr Sunak countered: ‘The difference between him and me is I stand by my values and my principles even when it is difficult.

‘When I disagreed fundamentally with the previous prime minister I resigned from the government.

‘But for four long years he sat next to the member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) – when antisemitism ran rife, when his predecessor sided with our opponents.

‘That’s what’s weak, Mr Speaker. He has no principles and just petty politics.’

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said the issue of Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs is ‘now a matter of the Prime Minister’s own integrity and accountability’.

He said: ‘May I ask the Prime Minister what advice would he have for individuals seeking to protect their personal finances? Should they seek out a future chair of the BBC to help secure an £800,000 loan?

‘Should they set up a trust in Gibraltar and hope that HMRC simply don’t notice? Or should they do as others have done and simply apply for non-dom status?’

Mr Sunak replied: ‘I’m proud of the record of this Government in supporting the most vulnerable in our society.

‘Just this winter helping all families – £900 with their energy bills, raising the National Living Wage to record levels and ensuring that our pensioners get the support they need. That’s what this Government is doing to ensure financial security in this country.’

Mr Flynn added: ‘Let’s be clear about this, this is now a matter of the Prime Minister’s own integrity and accountability.

‘Is it little wonder that people in Scotland may well just consider the Tory party to be a parcel of rogues?’

Mr Sunak replied: ‘What I am standing up for is proper due process, that’s why we have an independent adviser. It’s right that the independent adviser conducts his investigation – that’s how we will ensure accountability and that’s what I will deliver.’



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