Ebor leader Sir Keir Starmer attacked Boris Johnson over his record on the NHS, but accused him of failing to hit a major blow at the beleaguered prime minister as the pair clashed in the Commons on Wednesday.
Mr Johnson faced questions from his first prime minister as he escaped a trust vote two days earlier by Tory MPs under his leadership.
Although he won the vote, 41 per cent of Conservative MPs voted against Mr Johnson and questioned his long-term prospects of surviving the top post.
Upon arriving for the PMQs, Mr Johnson was cheered loudly by his supporters on the Tory bench as he took his place in the dispatch box sent by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Voices of opposition MPs were also heard.
But instead of questioning the prime minister over the split in the Tory party – a move that may have only served to unify the Conservative MPs behind Mr Johnson – Sir Keir on his commitment to GP numbers, cancer care and building more hospitals Criticized Mr Johnson.
Sir Keir cited a damning letter written by Tory MP and former Treasury Minister Jesse Norman made public ahead of Monday’s vote, saying: “The prime minister’s ‘big plan’ act is so weary that the once-loyal PM Don’t even believe that and it’s not just waiting for a GP, it’s waiting for all NHS treatment.
“Take cancer, wait times for cancer care have been increasing for more than a decade.”
He continued: “Despite the hard work of doctors, people cannot see GPs in person, they are unhappy with GP services more than ever. If GP provision was ‘desired and inadequate’ before the pandemic, it is now What is?
“Failure to fix unnecessary and inadequate NHS buildings is putting patients at risk, isn’t it the prime minister?”
Mr Johnson defended the government’s record on the NHS, saying it was spending billions on new buildings and helping to clear the backlog after the Covid pandemic.
He said Sir Keir’s method of attack was not working and that he was “simply wrong”.
“This line of criticism is sarcastic – an attack on our hospital construction programme, when they were the authors of the PFI scheme that bankrupted so many hospitals,” he said.
“Instead what we are doing is building 48 new hospitals, yes we are, thank you … the largest capital investment program in the history of the NHS.”
He said: “They oppose that funding, they oppose the health and care levy, they don’t have a leg to stand on, we are building the foundation for the future of our NHS and they must support it.
“That’s wrong about what we’re doing and of course we’ve got to clean up the Covid backlog, and everyone understands the pressure that the NHS is under, but they are responding wonderfully.”
Sir Keir’s focus on health during the PMQs attracted sarcastic tweets from Tory MPs, including Foreign Office Minister James Cleverley, who said: “VONC [vote of no confidence] Deserved after this terrible performance in the starrer. ,
Another Conservative MP, Nigel Adams, tweeted a video of former Chelsea striker Fernando Torres missing an open target with the comment: “PMQ of Starmer” and a face-slapping emoji.
Meanwhile, former Labor Minister Lord Mandelson raised fresh questions on Sir Keir’s leadership in an interview with Times Radio, saying he has “almost a year” to turn things around. Lord Mandelson said, “Between now and next year … we’ve got to see more powerful brushstrokes, get on that canvas.”