From Keir Starmer being showered in glitter to David Cameron’s comeback: 2023’s unexpected political moments

From Keir Starmer being showered in glitter to David Cameron’s comeback: 2023’s unexpected political moments
  • PublishedDecember 22, 2023

From a shower of glitter to the shock comeback of the former prime minister, we take a look back at some of the oddest moments of the past 12 months in politics.

It may seem pretty standard nowadays for chaos to follow wherever politics goes.

But there were a number of unexpected political moments this year that left even the most seasoned Westminster watcher open-mouthed.

We take a look at some of the most surprising incidents from the past 12 months.

Glitter bombing

As the end of the Labour’s annual conference drew near and Sir Keir Starmer took to the stage to give his closing speech, he may have been preparing to face a heckle or two.

But the party’s leader probably couldn’t have predicted being showered in glitter by a protester demanding changes to the voting system.

On a serious note, it was quite the breach of security, and being in the room, it felt like an age before his guards tackled the protester to the ground.

But Sir Keir used the incident to his advantage, took off his bedazzled jacket and literally rolled up his sleeves to get on with the job.

The crowd were in the palm of his hand for the rest of his speech.

The Stockton moment

Things often get a little heated during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, but a sweary heckle from the Tory frontbench ended up making headlines.

Labour MP Alex Cunningham had put a question to Rishi Sunak, asking why so many children in his Stockton-on-Tees constituency were living in poverty.

Home Secretary James Cleverly was then heard making a comment, which Mr Cunningham claimed was as follows: “Because it’s a s***hole”.

Cue anger from Labour and northern Tories, and a denial from Mr Cleverly.

However, as the pressure continue to build, a source close to the minister had to fess up, revealing that while Mr Cleverly didn’t slag off Stockton, he did refer to Mr Cunningham as a “s*** MP”.

Greenpeace at Sunak’s house

When the prime minister headed off to California for a family holiday – taking in a Taylor Swift show in the process – his manor house in North Yorkshire was getting a make-over.

Five activists from Greenpeace climbed onto the roof of his constituency home to stage a protest against the government’s plans to grant more than 100 new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.

And they made their point by draping the imposing building with black fabric, as if it had been covered in oil.

MPs of all stripes attacked the protesters for targeting Mr Sunak’s home, with an ex-police chief branding it a “major security breach”.

But the group called it a “proportionate response to a disastrous decision” amid a climate crisis – as well as saying they wouldn’t have done it if the prime minister or his family were at home.

Keegan comment

Another sweary moment makes it onto our list, but this one was slightly more self-congratulatory.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan found herself in political hot water at the end of the summer holidays after it was revealed over 100 schools had to fully or partially close over concerns about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

But it was what she said after an interview on the topic that really got our attention.

Still wearing her mic, Ms Keegan was recorded saying: “Does anyone ever say, ‘you know you’ve done a f****** good job’ because everyone else has sat on their a**** and done nothing?

“No signs of that, no?”

The minister later apologised, but said she was “frustrated with the interviewer” who was “making out it was all my fault”.

Cummings’ COVID comments

While Ms Keegan’s language could be described as colourful, she has nothing on the expletive vocabulary of one particular former adviser.

Onlookers knew the appearance of Dominic Cummings at the COVID inquiry was sure to get spicy, as he has made no secret of his distain for most of the people he worked with in Downing Street.

But no one quite expected it when the well-spoken lawyer at the hearing began to read out Mr Cummings’ most graphic description of ministers from his WhatsApps.

“Useless f***pigs, morons and c****,” he said.

Mr Cummings stood by the remarks, however, telling the inquiry the barbs “understated the position” of “chaos” in Number 10.

The long exit

Nadine Dorries

There were quite a few high-profile exits from parliament this year, but perhaps the most remarkable was the drawn-out departure of former culture secretary Nadine Dorries.

The Mid-Bedfordshire MP and close ally of Boris Johnson announced she was quitting the Commons “with immediate effect” soon after the ex-prime minister was found to have lied to the House over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

But it took her another 81 days to officially resign her post in a letter to Mr Sunak.

So why the long pause? Well, Ms Dorries had been expecting to be elevated to the Lords in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list, but it didn’t happen.

She has since blamed that on Mr Sunak blocking the move, and said she hung on to investigate what had happened to her peerage.

Ms Dorries remains without one, but has written a book about a plot she believed took place in Westminster against Mr Johnson and his government.

The return of Cameron

Reshuffle days are always the height of excitement in Westminster, as we wait to see who will be kicked out of their plush offices, and which MPs will be moving in.

But when Mr Sunak’s most recent rejigging of cabinet began, no one expected the suit about to get out of the car.

Former prime minister David – now Lord – Cameron shocked everyone with his appearance on Downing Street, and in the coming hours, he was confirmed as the new foreign secretary.

You can hear the surprise in the voices of Sky News’ Kay Burley and deputy political editor Sam Coates in the video above…

Tech bro duo

The word of the year is AI, and as a former Silicon Valley resident, Mr Sunak has tagged himself onto the topic of the moment.

He hosted a summit with experts and politicians from around the world at the famous Bletchley Park to discuss its future.

But a surprise Q&A session back in central London after the main event was the one that drew all the focus.

The prime minister, used to being interviewed himself, instead posed questions to the tech entrepreneur and controversial X owner Elon Musk.

From encouraging people to be more “comfortable failing” through to claiming AI friends may be better than real ones, it was a strange conversation that perhaps may have been better behind closed doors.

But Mr Sunak was keen to laugh along with his jokes and try to show off his own credentials to the world’s most famous tech bro.

Minister suggests wrong kind of rain to blame for floods

Having fallen from the dizzy heights of deputy prime minister under the short tenure of Liz Truss, Therese Coffey never seemed quite so happy in her role as environment secretary.

But one of her worst days in the gig must have been on a visit to an area of Nottinghamshire hit hard by flooding caused by Storm Babet.

She faced an awkward exchange with local residents whose homes had been ruined by the water, and they didn’t seem convinced by her citing of statistics over how much the government had spent on flood defences.

Appearing before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that same week, she suggested the damage from the storm was harder to predict because the rain came in from the east.

She lost her job a matter of weeks later in the aforementioned reshuffle.

Braverman steps on guide dog at Tory conference

The former home secretary has faced some cruel putdowns in the press due to her tough stances on topics like immigration, antisemitism and… homelessness.

But Suella Braverman left the door wide open to being dubbed “Cruella” when she was spotted on the floor of the Conservative Party conference.

A tweet went viral showing her stepping with her high heels onto the tail of a dog – and not just any dog, a guide dog for the blind.

Ms Braverman was later quoted as saying she was unaware she had stepped on the dog’s tail, telling a fringe event: “I was unaware until a few minutes ago – I don’t think any dogs were harmed in the filming of my visit, but let me just issue for the record an apology to all dogs out there.”

Squirrel faux pas

All eyes have been quite rightly focused on the Middle East since the horrific terror attacks on 7 October in Israel, and the conflict in Gaza that has followed.

But while it may have been on the mind of Jim Shannon, he probably should have left it at the door when he took part in a Westminster Hall debate on squirrels.

The DUP MP was telling his colleagues about an organisation in his constituency set up to protect red squirrels, whose numbers have notoriously dwindled due to the impact of their grey cousins.

However, Mr Shannon may have crossed the line when he said: “Grey squirrels are the Hamas of the squirrel world.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *