UK's new Labour leader praised after first public test

Sir Keir sat in a near-empty House of Commons for his first Prime Minister’s Questions

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has received praise from across the political spectrum for his first high-profile event since his election.

It was the first time since his election and since the coronavirus forced Britain into lockdown that the new leader of the opposition has been seen in Parliament.

Sir Keir sat in a near-empty House of Commons, following rules for socially distant gatherings, for the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQS) while other MPs joined online for a virtual sitting.

PMQs is a weekly event where opposition parties and leaders get the chance to ask questions of the prime minister. On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stood in for the still-recovering Boris Johnson.

After Mr Starmer’s performance on Wednesday, there were some admiring tweets from those on the other side of the political spectrum and from those generally expected to be neutral.

George Osborne a former Conservative government minister who is now editor of London’s Evening Standard, said: “Watching PMQs there’s one clear conclusion: after a 5 year absence, Britain has an opposition again.”

Labour MP David Lammy wrote: “Confident, fluent, sharp, direct, forensic."

Alistair Campbell, a key staffer in the last Labour government who had clashed with the previous party leadership, also sang Sir Keir’s praises

He tweeted: “Right issues, right tone, right mix of empathy and detail, and right balance.”

Harry Cole, deputy political editor at the right-wing Mail on Sunday tweeted: “Opposition. Actual functioning opposition.”

He was followed by Tom Newton Dunn, political editor at The Sun, another right-wing tabloid, who said Mr Raab had conceded for the first time that it will “be a challenge” to reach the government’s testing targets.

Tim Montgomerie, a political blogger who created the ConservativeHome website added: “This is an impressive debut.”

Adam Boulton, editor at large at Sky News, said Sir Keir was getting direct answers from Mr Raab.

At the BBC, political presenter Andrew Neil said Mr Starmer’s performance meant “the government will need to raise its game”.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer standing and speaking during Prime Minister's Question time (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on April, 2020, as parliament resumes with social distancing measure in place, and some MPs taking part remotely by videolink, due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / PRU " - NO USE FOR ENTERTAINMENT, SATIRICAL, MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS