'Tin foil hat brigade': Starmer mocks Tory Party over Liz Truss at PMQs

Angry exchnages about the former leaders of both main parties dominated today's PMQs, as Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has mocked Rishi Sunak for comments made by his predecessor Liz Truss, after she said the "deep state" sabotaged her leadership, and stayed silent when Steve Bannon called Tommy Robinson a "hero".

Sir Keir accused the prime minister of being taken over by the "tin foil hat brigade", and asked "when did his party become the political wing of the Flat Earth Society?" at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Sir Keir asked why Mr Sunak was allowing former prime minister Ms Truss to remain a Conservative MP, telling the Commons: “His predecessor spent last week in America trying to flog her new book.

“She claimed that as prime minister she was sabotaged by the deep state. She also remained silent as Tommy Robinson, that right-wing thug, was described as a hero. Why is he allowing her to stand as a Tory MP at the next election?”

Mr Sunak replied: “I don’t believe a single member of this House supports Tommy Robinson. But if he wants to talk about former leaders and predecessors, the whole country knows his record because he sat there while antisemitism ran rife in his party and not once but twice backed a man who called Hamas friends.”

Ms Truss made the remarks at a right-wing conference in the US last week, describing the Economist and the Financial Times as part of the "deep state", and stating in an article for Fox News that the "deep state" also sabotaged her leadership.

The former prime minister hit back at Sir Keir's comments on X, formerly Twitter, saying the Labour leader "wants to make the UK a hostile environment for conservatives".

But Mr Sunak hit back during PMQs, drawing attention to Labour’s record on antisemitism ahead of Thursday’s Rochdale by-election.

Labour pulled support for its candidate Azhar Ali after reports emerged that he had blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of a pro-Palestinian MP.

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Sir Keir also pressed the PM to reveal whether former Ukip and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage would be joining the Conservatives, after Ms Truss described him as the “man to restore the Tory Party”.

But Mr Sunak would not be drawn into answering, and celebrated the Conservatives’ record of diversity among its leaders.

Responding on X, Nigel Farage said Keir Starmer has forgotten that millions of Labour voters want to stop “mass migration and our increasingly unrecognisable cities”.

The Labour leader also asked, “is the prime minister simply too scared to stand up to the gaggle of Tory MPs, who moonlight as GB News presenters, or does he genuinely think Nigel Farage shares the ideals and values of the Tory party?”

Mr Sunak said: “He wants to talk about values, but tomorrow in Rochdale the people will have the choice of three former Labour candidates, two of which are antisemites.

“The truth is, his party is so mired in hate that despite three ex-Labour candidates standing, he can’t back a single one of them.”

The Prime Minister added: “We expel antisemites, he makes them Labour candidates.”

It had been expected Sir Keir would attack the PM over Lee Anderson, who was suspended after saying "Islamists" had "got control" of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The prime minister has resisted pressure to label the comments as "Islamophobic" and "racist", yet Mr Sunak raised the affair by saying "when I heard something I didn't agree with, I suspended that MP immediately", comparing it to Starmer's response to Mr Ali's comments.

When Lee Anderson first made the comments about Mr Khan, the party defended him, issuing this statement, “Lee was simply making the point that the Mayor, in his capacity as PCC for London, has abjectly failed to get a grip on the appalling Islamist marches we have seen in London recently."

Labour have also raised concerns about comments made by former home secretary Suella Braverman, who said in an article for the Telegraph newspaper that "Islamists... are in charge" of Britain.

In response to the comments by Mr Anderson, Ms Braverman and Ms Truss, Britain’s largest Muslim group wrote to the Conservative party to call for an investigation into “structural Islamophobia” within the party’s ranks.

A number of journalists watching PMQs today observed how the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle didn't interrupt as much as usual, despite the lively nature of the session.

Sir Lindsay is facing calls to resign after he defied parliamentary convention by allowing a vote on a Labour amendment to an SNP Gaza ceasefire motion.

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