Coronavirus: Keir Starmer condemns Boris Johnson’s ‘serial incompetence’ and calls for fresh economic support

Written by on 23/09/2020

Sir Keir Starmer has called for new support for businesses and workers following the introduction of fresh coronavirus restrictions – as he condemned the government’s “serial incompetence” in dealing with the crisis.

The Labour leader, in an interview with Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby, reiterated his party’s support for the measures introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

But he accused the government of having already been “slow” to accompany the COVID-19 restrictions with added economic support.

And, in one of his strongest attacks to date on Mr Johnson’s character, he said Britons “deserve better” than the government’s current handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to update the House of Commons on the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

But it is understood that Mr Sunak will not publish another budget this year, despite previous suggestions he was preparing another economic announcement for November.

Sir Keir said he and Labour supported the introduction of new restrictions – including 10pm closing times for pubs, bars and restaurants – as “a matter of principle”.

“It’s very important that communications are clear, and they will only be clear if it’s done on a cross-party basis and we’re all saying, as they are, ‘follow the government advice’,” he explained.

But he added that Labour’s support was accompanied by two concerns.

“One is that, just when we need testing to be really effective, it’s near collapse,” he said.

“The other is that, as the government is introducing new health restrictions, it’s phasing out economic support.

“Businesses, trade unions, the CBI, the governor of the Bank of England – you name it – they’re desperate to say to the prime minister ‘think again’.

“Because businesses now, as a result of these new restrictions, are going to be put under huge strain and you owe it to them to put a support mechanism in place.

“The government really should have done that yesterday, so it’s already slow into this.”

Despite Labour’s support for the coronavirus restrictions, Sir Keir questioned the prime minister’s “character” in dealing with the pandemic.

“It’s very rare, in all of our lives, that the whole nation is going through something together and they’re looking to the government – and the prime minister in particular – and they’re totally reliant,” he said.

“They want the government to succeed because, if the government fails, then it has an implication for every family on the health side, and every family on the job side.

“Character really matters at a time like this.”

Asked if he personally disliked Mr Johnson, Sir Keir replied: “I’m frustrated that, just when our nation needs leadership, we’ve got serial incompetence and it really matters.”

He added: “The prime minister and the government, collectively, are guilty, in my view, of serial incompetence – there have been 12 U-turns.

“I’m quite prepared to accept that a government will make mistakes in a pandemic like this and one or two U-turns are probably a sign of a government listening and then changing.

“But when you’ve got 12 in a row, the only conclusion is serial incompetence.”

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Pressed on whether he thought Mr Johnson should resign as prime minister, Sir Keir replied: “He has not led us through this pandemic well.

“We’ve got one of the highest death rates in the world, and we’re heading – on current forecasts – for one of the deepest recessions.

“Our country is better than that, we deserve better than that.”

(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Keir Starmer condemns Boris Johnson’s ‘serial incompetence’ and calls for fresh economic support

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