‘Is everything OK prime minister?’: Keir Starmer taunts Boris Johnson after gaffes and U-turns

Watered-down care plans branded ‘working class dementia tax’ – reminding worried Tories of Theresa May’s failed policy

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 24 November 2021 13:05
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Keir Starmer asks Boris Johnson: ‘Is everything OK?’

Keir Starmer has taunted Boris Johnson by asking “is everything OK prime minister?” after his troubled week of gaffes and U-turns.

The Labour leader also branded the watered-down social care plans a “working class dementia tax” – reminding worried Tory MPs about the failed policy that derailed Theresa May’s 2017 election campaign.

“He has picked pockets of working people to protect the estates of the wealthiest,” Sir Keir alleged, at a rowdy prime minister’s questions.

After his much-ridiculed stuttering through a CBI conference speech on Monday, Mr Johnson faced the indignity of a TV reporter asking if all was well.

Echoing the clip in the Commons, Sir Keir claimed the chancellor is “getting wise” to No 10’s failings and that Tory backbenchers consider recent episodes “embarrassing”, adding: “Is everything ok prime minister?”

But Mr Johnson defended his care plans as a big step forward – claiming he is “delivering for working people” and “fixing the problems” Labour governments had ignored.

The clashes came with Conservative frustrations about the prime minister’s poor performance in recent weeks threatening to boil over.

There are calls for a shake-up of a misfiring Downing Street’s operation – while Treasury sources have revealed Rishi Sunak’s concern about a succession of blunders.

The integrated rail plan sparked anger across the north, by ditching previous promises, while scores of Tory MPs refused to back the diluted care proposals in a vote on Monday.

The period of turmoil began with the botched attempt to fix Commons anti-sleaze rules to save the disgraced Owen Paterson, which ended in a humiliating retreat.

Sir Keir said: “Strip away the bluster, strip away the deflection, strip away the refusal to answer the question, there’s a simple truth and this is why the prime minister won’t address it: people will still be forced to sell their homes to pay for care.”

“It’s another broken promise, just like he promised that he wouldn’t put up tax, just like he promised 40 new hospitals, just like he promised a rail revolution in the North.

“Who knows if he’ll make it to the next election, but if does how does he expect anyone to take him and his promises seriously?”

In response, Mr Johnson denied a care U-turn, claiming he is “fixing something Labour never fixed in all their years”.

“Most important of all, by putting the huge investment that we are making now in health and social care, we are allowing for the first time the people of this country to insure themselves against the potentially catastrophic, otherwise catastrophic cost of dementia, or Alzheimer’s.”

On rail, he added: “Three new high-speed lines, £96bn, nothing like it for a century.”

Turning on Sir Keir, the prime minister said: “It turns out that [he] actually campaigned against HS2, said it would be devastating and said it should be cancelled.”

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