PMQs live: Boris Johnson asks Keir Starmer if he backs RMT rail strikes

Train workers are set to go on strike next week, causing chaos across the country

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer have clashed over RMT strikes during Prime Minister's Questions.

Trade union workers, including from the RMT, are set to go on strike next week, causing chaos across the UK's train network.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Sir Keir Starmer said he "doesn't want the strikes to go ahead"
Sir Keir Starmer said he "doesn't want the strikes to go ahead"

Speaking following a question about the economy, Mr Johnson hit back by saying: "What would be useful in supporting the UK economy right now would be if the leader of the Labour Party ended his sphinx-like silence about the RMT strikes coming up in the course of the coming weeks.

"Will he now break with his shadow transport secretary and denounce Labour’s rail strikes?"

Before Sir Keir replied: "He’s in Government! He could do something to stop the strikes. But he hasn’t lifted a finger.

"I don’t want the strikes to go ahead but he does.

"He wants the country to grind to a halt so he can feed off the division."

Later in the debate, the PM again probed the Opposition leader about the strikes.

He said: "He has the chance to clear it up, he can oppose Labour’s rail strikes right now.

"Let him disagree with the union barons who will add to people’s costs in the coming weeks."

Sir Keir responded by saying: "I don’t want the strikes to go ahead, he does so he can feed on the division."

The Labour Party leader kicked off the questioning by asking: “Britain is set for lower growth than every major economy except Russia. Why?”

To which the Prime Minister replied: “Actually, we are gonna have according to the IMF, and the OECD, we are, in addition to the fastest growth in the G7 last year, we are gonna have the second fastest this year, and we will return to the top of the table.

“But the reason other countries are temporarily moving in is of course because we came out of the pandemic faster than they did because we took the right decisions to come out of lockdown, which he opposed.

The UK's train network is set for major rail strike next week
The UK's train network is set for major rail strike next week

“That’s why right now, we have the highest number of people on payroll employment on record.”

In a heated debate, Sir Keir referred to Mr Johnson as Star Wars' Jabba the Hutt, saying "the force just isn't with him any more".

"As for his boasting about the economy, he thinks he can perform Jedi mind tricks on the country. ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for, no rules were broken, the economy is booming’. The problem is the force just isn’t with him any more.

“He thinks he’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, the truth is he’s Jabba the Hutt. Last week he stood there and boasted that we would continue to grow the economy, this week it turns out the economy shrank for the second month in a row. How does it help Britain to have an ostrich Britain with his head in the sand?”

Sir Keir also read out from a “long list” of what Tory MPs think of Mr Johnson and challenged them to reveal who said which remark.

The Labour leader said: “My personal favourite is this: this is a document circulated by his backbench, in which they call him the ‘Conservative Corbyn’. Prime Minister, I don’t think that was intended as a compliment.

“Week after week he stands there and spouts the same nonsense – the economy is booming, everything is going swimmingly, the people should be grateful. But whilst he’s telling Britain that we’ve never had it so good, millions of working people and businesses know the reality.”

Sir Keir faced relentless heckling as he attempted to conclude his remarks, in which he labelled Mr Johnson “totally deluded”.

Mr Johnson said Sir Keir “tried repeatedly” to get Jeremy Corbyn elected as prime minister, adding: “Speaking from experience, he’s relatively dynamic by comparison with the right honourable gentleman.”

The Prime Minister concluded by saying he was taking decisions “on the side of the British people”, and was heckled when he said: “They’re on the side of the people traffickers who would risk people’s lives at sea and we are on the side of people who come here safely and legally.”