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We are now approaching Terminus Day: All change please


By Rebecca Coleman

This week’s PMQs was the first following the announcement that all over-18s could now book their vaccine appointments. For the leaders of the opposition parties, this was perhaps the signal they had been waiting for, that for the most part, it was time to get back to politics-as-usual.

Indeed, those who tuned in to this week’s Prime Ministers Questions would have been remiss to not have hastily constructed a quick bingo card. Conservative backbenches clamoured for reassurance that planning reforms would not harm their rural constituencies, the ever-present HS2 reared its head, and Sir Lindsay Hoyle was at pains to quieten jeers from across the room.

For Labour, it appeared that the penny has finally dropped that, on the pandemic, the Conservatives and their unprecedented vaccine rollout have won the argument. According to Redfield & Wilson’s latest polling they are wise to do so. A sizeable 43% of voters still believe that Boris Johnson is capable of tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Sir Keir languishes at 25%. Through scandal, sleaze and even the UK’s very own variant, the government has ridden the vaccine wave all the way to terminus day.

The question for voters now is: ‘What’s next?’

Both Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey came with their answers. This was not so much a question-and-answer session for the Prime Minister, but a signal of things to come.

For Ed Davey, who bypassed a cheap shot at the government’s planning reforms, it was a question on the state of support for carers. Building on his first speech as Lib Dem leader, he positioned the Lib Dems as the party who ‘cares about carers’ abandoned by the Tories.  

Cut then to Keir Starmer, who demanded answers from the Prime Minister on why sexual assault convictions were at an all-time low, at just 1.6%.  Contending that the Policing Bill ‘cared more about statues than women’ he drew on his five years’ experience heading up the Crown Prosecution Service as a shining badge of authority on law and order, deriding a decade of cuts that have left victims fighting for justice.

It was disquieting then, and I imagine for the Conservative benches concerning, to hear Boris deploy his ready-made quip, ‘they jabber, we jab Mr Speaker’ when asked to apologise to victims of sexual assault. 

Each politician has a story they would like to tell. For Keir, it is a detective thriller. One man on a dogged, lifelong pursuit of justice. For Ed, it is a story of compassion, a man who has been a carer for his mother, and later his disabled son. Devoted to looking after his family and fighting for those who can’t.  

At this point it’s worth pausing to remember that at the last pre-pandemic election, the issues of Brexit, healthcare and crime were voter’s biggest concerns.

With the days of Brexit now in the past (five years today in fact) and the 19th of July fast approaching, Boris Johnson must find his own, new story to tell. Traditionally a man of history, should he fail to do so, he might runs the danger of being consigned to it.