DEPUTY Prime Minister Oliver Dowden has attacked the SNP’s Mhairi Black for describing the King’s coronation as a “pantomime.”

The exchange in the Commons in response to a question about the interest rates left the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South clearly bemused.

Mr Dowden was substituting for Rishi Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions as the Tory leader was in Washington DC for talks with Joe Biden.

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As is the convention, when the Deputy Prime Minister is standing in, the two other main opposition parties also put their deputy leaders up. 

Ms Black said: “When the Prime Minister took office he said he would put economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government.

“Today, UK interest rates are one of the highest in the G20 and mortgage rates are rising, nearly back to where they were after the former PM crashed the economy.”

She added: “Is it not the case that this government’s biggest achievement is that they’re trashing the economy just a wee bit slower than their predecessor?”

The Herald:

Mr Dowden pointed to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which suggested GDP would improve by 0.3 per cent in 2023 before improving moderately to 1% growth in 2024.

The economic body said this was an upgrade from the previous report, in March, which had estimated GDP would fall by 0.2% this year.

Mr Dowden said: “I don’t know whether the honourable lady had been following the news today but actually again the OECD upgraded our growth forecasts.

“And really, one month ago the whole nation came together celebrating that wonderful moment of pomp, pageantry, and pride in our nation. What did the honuorable lady describe it as? I quote, 'a pantomime'. Well, the real pantomime is the SNP in Scotland.”

Ms Black said she did “not know what question” the Deputy Prime Minister had been answering. 

She then told the Commons: “This Government plans to cut taxes for the richest, spend £6 billion in imprisoning people fleeing war and persecution, and has lost £21 billion to Government fraud throughout this pandemic.

“Is the view from the Prime Minister’s luxury helicopters so skewed that during a cost-of-living crisis he thinks this is what people’s priorities are?”

Mr Dowden said he was going to take “no lectures on profligacy from the SNP”.

Ms Black's comment on the coronation came during an appearance on ITV's Peston back in April, when she was asked what she thought the impending crowning of King Charles meant for the UK.

She replied: "I mean, the SNP's formal possession, of course, is that the monarch is part of state and in an independent Scotland that wouldn't change but me personally, no, I'm not fond of the monarchy.

"And I think in the middle of a cost of living crisis, that money could be much better spent than on frankly, what looks like a pantomime."

Earlier in the session, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner pushed Mr Dowden on the government’s legal attempts to stop the public inquiry into Covid-19 from obtaining the unredacted messages and diaries of former prime minister Boris Johnson.

“Speaking of the last election, the Tory manifesto promised to end the abuse of the judicial review, how’s it going?” she asked. 

Mr Dowden replied: “Let me just remind (her) of a few facts about the Covid inquiry.

“We set up the Covid inquiry, we have provided it with more than 55,000 documents so far.

“We have given it all the financial resources it needs so that we can learn the lessons from the pandemic, but Mr Speaker in Wales they also had a pandemic, and what have the Labour-run Wales authorities done there? No independent inquiry in Wales.

“As ever one rule for Labour and another for everyone else.”

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Mr Rayner accused the Government of “spending hundreds of thousands of pounds” of taxpayers’ money on “loophole lawyers”.

She said: “He pretends that it’s complicated but it’s simple. They set up the inquiry to get to the truth, then blocked that inquiry from getting the information that it asked for and now they’re taking it to court.

“I know he considers himself a man of the people, so using his vast knowledge of working class Britain, does he think working people will thank him for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of their money on loophole lawyers, just so the Government can obstruct the Covid inquiry?”

Mr Dowden said the government would “provide the inquiry with each and every document related to Covid including all internal discussions in any form as requested while crucially protecting what is wholly and unambiguously irrelevant because essential (she) is calling for years worth of documents and messages between named individuals to be in scope and that could cover anything from civil servants’ medical conditions to intimate details about their families.”