“Every day there’s more evidence of the sleaze that’s at the heart of this conservative government,” said Starmer, who accused Boris Johnson of “blocking a proper inquiry” into the matter.
Starmer said: “The Greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg – dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates. This is the return of the Tory sleaze.”
Watch: Starmer accuses government of having 'sleaze at its heart'
He quipped: “Ted Hastings and AC-12 are needed to get to the bottom of this one.”
In Line of Duty, Superintendent Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) heads up AC-12, an anti-corruption unit interested in “catching bent coppers” – a catchphrase of the series.
Riffing off Starmer’s joke, Johnson replied: “We are getting on with rooting out ‘bent coppers’, Mr Speaker. We’re also hiring thousands more police officers.”
The exchange between the two politicians apparently did not go down well given that it was met with an awkward silence.
Viewers at home have taken to social media to comment on the unexpected reference.
One user wrote: “Starmer’s Line of Duty joke fell about as flat as it’s possible to do so”, while another added: “Bless Keir trying to be relevant by using #LineofDuty at #PMQs.”
“Oh god stop politicians stop ruining Line of Duty,” wrote someone else.
A third person added: “A bit cringey but I love it anyway. Imagine Ted Hastings grilling Boris Johnson at PMQs.”
“Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson feebly trading cheesy Line of Duty jibes at PMQs,” said someone. “A pair of vapid idiots driving the infantilisation of politics, and hastening the lamentable decline in the standard of British political discourse. Pathetic.”
“Can’t be the only one who thought this was proper cringe?” commented another person, while another agreed: “Line of Duty references in parliament is cringe.”
“You know things are getting bad when this happens during PMQ’s,” said someone else. “Kier just referenced Line of Duty at PMQ’s. Ruined it now.”
Other people, however, appeared to appreciate the pop culture reference.
“Line of Duty and Ted Hastings mentioned in #PMQs I am wetting myself with laughter,” said one person.
“Brilliant exchange,” commented another.
Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?