Penny Mordaunt’s pained expression summed up ‘battered’ Rishi Sunak’s PMQs

Rishi Sunak mocks Keir Starmer with Angela Rayner dig in PMQs

Sometimes a look can say more than thousands of words.

And that was certainly the case today with Penny Mordaunt’s crestfallen expression as she sat close to Rishi Sunak as he tried to survive another day.

The fixed look she gave him was the sort you would expect when somebody sees a badly injured puppy or hears from a dear friend that their child is seriously ill.

It mirrored the pain of the situation with a fixed if not entirely sympathetic grimace.

And there was a lot to look pained about.

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Today was never going to be a good day for Sunak.

The man he knifed as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was giving public evidence down the road, his former Home Secretary Suella Braverman was warming up for her personal statement on her sacking and his MPs are at open civil war over what to do about illegal migration.

The right – the European Research Group, Common Sense Group and New Conservatives – last night issued their demands for removing the power of the European Convention of Human Rights, Refugee Convention and other treaties in his emergency legislation to get the Rwanda deportation flights off the ground or they would send in letters for a leadership confidence vote.

The left of his party – the One Nation Group – issued demands that he did not agree to those terms or they would rebel.

No surprise then that Sir Keir Starmer ruthlessly went in for the kill on the Rwanda issue – and he had many targets to hit.

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The Labour leader had the look of a man who knew his opponent was not just struggling to get off the canvas but was more in danger of getting a “battering” from his own side.

Indeed, Starmer referred to Sunak as “battered” as he went through the litany of failures of the Rwanda “gimmick”.

And he appeared to be on good ground after all, as he said, so far Sunak had sent three Home Secretaries and hundreds of millions of British taxpayers’ money to Rwanda but zero illegal migrants.

He pointed out that the UK has now signed up to take migrants from Rwanda as well, something which has caused disquiet among Conservative MPs.

It was clear he was playing to an audience of Tory MPs who were considering ditching a Prime Minister for the third time in 18 months rather than his side who sat in stony silence throughout the exchanges disapproving of Starmer’s choice of subject.

And somehow, Sunak’s usual comebacks did not seem to raise the same cheers from his own MPs as they have done in the past.

There were the usual lines about Starmer’s deal with the EU taking 100,000 extra migrants, the fact Labour has no plan (it really doesn’t, by the way) and even a joke about Arsenal (Starmer’s favourite football team) having “visit Rwanda” on their strip.

But none of it seemed to land well as the increasingly depressed expression on Ms Mordaunt’s face seemed to underline.

Already letters are going in to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, asking for a vote of confidence.

The Prime Minister is facing two more rebellions today including the possibility of defeat on prison sentences.

Time appears to be running out.

So maybe behind her fixed expression Ms Mordaunt was trying to calculate if she had the numbers in a leadership election to replace Sunak.

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