LONDON — Rishi Sunak was accused of “losing his marbles” over his handling of a major diplomatic spat with Greece.
Opposition Labour Leader Keir Starmer launched a pun-filled barrage against Sunak at this week’s session of prime minister’s questions as the row between the U.K. and Greece over custody of the ancient Elgin marbles deepens.
Accusing Sunak of engaging in “small politics” for cancelling a meeting Monday with Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over his decision to raise the issue of the historic artefacts, Starmer added: “Never mind the British Museum — it’s the prime minister who has obviously lost his marbles.”
The marble sculptures were removed from Athens by diplomat and art aficionado Lord Elgin in the 19th century and have been housed in the British Museum since then, despite high-profile campaigning for their return.
London and Athens have been locked in a briefing war over the cancelled visit all week, with Sunak’s No.10 Downing Street claiming the Greek PM went back on a promise not to raise the issue of the sculptures’ return at a bilateral this week — and Mitsotakis’ team hotly disputing that.
Tory MPs — some of whom are already concerned with their leader’s handling of the diplomatic spat — sat glum-faced as Starmer quipped that, in an effort to distract from his failures, the PM had spent the week “arguing about an ancient relic that only a tiny minority of the British public have any interest in.”
“But that’s enough about the Tory party,” he added.
Sunak defended his actions and accused his Greek counterpart of “grandstanding” over the issue, before going on to claim it was no surprise that Starmer was “backing an EU country over Britain.”