Full text of Boris Johnson’s apology to MPs and Keir Starmer’s response

Sir Keir Starmer describes PM’s apology as ‘insulting’ and ‘nonsense’

Lamiat Sabin
Tuesday 19 April 2022 19:29
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'What a joke': Keir Starmer responds to Boris Johnson Partygate apology

Boris Johnson has apologised to MPs after he was fined for breaking lockdown rules during the coronavirus pandemic.

His comments formed part of a longer statement in the House of Commons, which also covered the war in Ukraine.

Mr Johnson was fined after the Metropolitan Police found that he had attended parties hosted by Downing Street – in a scandal known as Partygate – while the rest of the country was prohibited from socialising.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer responded to the speech by calling it a “joke”, and said that Mr Johnson was “insulting the public” with his “nonsense ... mealy-mouthed apology”. He also called on Tory MPs to remove Mr Johnson from office.

Mr Johnson’s statement in full:

Boris Johnson in the House of Commons

The prime minister said: “Let me begin, in all humility, by saying that on April 12 I received a fixed penalty notice relating to an event in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.

“I paid the fine immediately and I offered the British people a full apology, and I take this opportunity, on the first available sitting day, to repeat my wholehearted apology to the House.

“As soon as I received the notice I acknowledged the hurt and the anger, and I said that people had a right to expect better of their Prime Minister, and I repeat that again in the House now.

“Let me also say, not by way of mitigation or excuse but purely because it explains my previous words in this House, that it did not occur to me, then or subsequently, that a gathering in the Cabinet Room just before a vital meeting on Covid strategy, could amount to a breach of the rules.

“I repeat, that was my mistake and I apologise for it unreservedly.

“I respect the outcome of the police investigation, which is still under way, and I can only say that I will respect their decision-making and always take the appropriate steps and, as the House will know, I have already taken significant steps to change the way things work in No 10.

“And it is precisely because I know that so many people are angry and disappointed that I feel an even greater sense of obligation to deliver on the priorities of the British people, and to respond in the best traditions of our country to Putin’s barbaric onslaught against Ukraine.”

Sir Keir’s statement in full:

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer giving his response to the PM’s apology

“What a joke. Even now as the latest mealy-mouthed apology stumbles out of one side of his mouth, a new set of deflections and distortions pour from the other.

“But the damage is already done. The public have made up their mind. They don’t believe a word the Prime Minister says. They know what he is.

“As ever with this Prime Minister those close to him find themselves ruined and the institutions he vows to protect damaged.

“Good ministers forced to walk away from public service. The Chancellor’s career up in flames. And the Leader of the Scottish Conservatives rendered pathetic.

“For all those unfamiliar with this Prime Minister’s career. This isn’t some fixable glitch in the system. It’s the whole point. It’s what he does. It’s who he is.

“He knows he’s dishonest and incapable of changing. So he drags everybody else down with him. The more people debase themselves, parroting his absurd defences, the more the public will believe all politicians are the same. All as bad as each other. And that suits this Prime Minister just fine.

“Some members opposite seem oblivious to the Prime Minister’s game. Some know what he’s up to but are too weak to act. But others are gleefully playing the part the Prime Minister cast for them.

“A minister on the radio this morning saying it’s the same as a speeding ticket. No it’s not. No one has ever broken down in tears because they couldn’t drive faster than 20mph outside a school. Don’t insult the public with this nonsense.

“But Mr Speaker, as it happens the last Minister who got a speeding ticket and then lied about it ended up in prison and I know because I prosecuted him. And last week we were treated to a grotesque spectacle.

“One of the Prime Minister’s loyal supporters accusing teachers and nurses of drinking in the staff room through lockdown. Members opposite can associate themselves with that if they want.

“But those of us who take pride in our NHS workers, our teachers and every other key worker who got us through those dark days will never forget their contempt.

“Plenty didn’t agree with every rule the Prime Minister wrote. But they followed them nonetheless because in this country we respect others, we put the greater good above narrow self-interest and we understand that the rules apply to all of us.

“This morning, I spoke to John Robinson, a constituent for the Member for Lichfield, I want to tell his story. When his wife died of Covid, John and his family obeyed the Prime Minister’s rules. He didn’t see her in hospital, he didn’t hold her hand as she died.

“Their daughters and grandchildren drove 100 miles up the motorway, clutching a letter from the funeral director in case they were questioned by the police.

“They didn’t have a service in the church, John’s son-in-law stayed away because he would have been the forbidden seventh mourner.

“Doesn’t the Prime Minister realise that John would have given the world to hold his dying wife’s hand, even if it was just for nine minutes? But he didn’t. Because he followed the Prime Minister’s rules.

“Rules that we now know the Prime Minister blithely, repeatedly and deliberately ignored. After months of insulting excuses, today’s half-hearted apology will never be enough for John Robinson.

“If the Prime Minister had any respect for John and the millions like him who sacrificed everything to follow the rules he’d resign. But he won’t. Because he doesn’t respect John. He doesn’t respect the sacrifice of the British public. He is a man without shame.

“Looking past the Member for Lichfield and the nodding dogs in the cabinet. There are many decent, honourable members on the benches opposite. Who do respect John Robinson. Who do respect the British public. They know the damage the Prime Minister is doing. They know things can’t go on as they are.

“And they know it is their responsibility to bring an end to this shameful chapter.

“Today I urge them once again. Don’t follow in the slipstream of an out of touch, out of control Prime Minister. Put their conscience first, put their country first, put John Robinson first and remove the Prime Minister from office.

“Bring decency, honesty and integrity back into our politics. And stop the denigration of everything that this country stands for.”

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