Dawn Butler right to say Boris Johnson lied, says Keir Starmer – but agrees MP should have been removed

Prime minister is ‘master of untruth and half truths’ says Labour leader

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Monday 26 July 2021 10:09
comments
Labour MP ordered to leave Commons after saying Boris Johnson has ‘lied over and over again’

Sir Keir Starmer has said he supports and “agrees” with Labour MP Dawn Butler after she stood up in parliament and said Boris Johnson had repeatedly lied.

But the Labour leader also said it was “right” for the backbencher to have been order to leave the House Commons for a day for breaking parliamentary etiquette.

“I agree with what Dawn had to say – I think the prime minister is the master of untruth and half truths,” Sir Keir told LBC on Monday. “Dawn was simply giving some examples of that.”

Expressing his sympathy with the Labour MP, Sir Keir suggested it was unfair that she was sanctioned for saying the prime minister had lied.

“I think there’s a lot of people that feel that it’s the person who has not told the truth, rather than the person who is calling it out, who ought to be in a hotspot,” the Labour leader said.

However, he said it was right for Ms Butler to have received the one-day ban. “In fairness to the temporary Speaker, Judith Cummins … she did right thing – she followed the rules, because parliament doesn’t allow you to call other parliamentarians liars in the chamber.”

The Labour leader added: “So I don’t criticise the [temporary] Speaker for what she did – she was following the rules. But do I support Dawn in what she said? I absolutely do.”

The former Commons Speaker John Bercow has called for the etiquette rule – which prevents MPs calling another member a liar in the chamber – to be ditched.

Mr Bercow said Ms Butler was entitled to claim the prime minister had lied, saying the “absurd” parliamentary rules should be changed so MPs can accuse one another of lying in the chamber.

In a joint piece with the Labour backbencher, Ms Butler and Mr Bercow wrote: “The glaring weakness of the system is that someone lying to tens of millions of citizens knows he or she is protected by an ancient rule.”

They told The Times: “They face no sanction. By contrast, an MP with the guts to tell the truth is judged to be in disgrace. It is absurd.”

Ms Butler was ordered to leave after refusing twice to take back her remarks about Mr Johnson lying “over and over” to both the House and the country.

She highlighted disputed claims made by Mr Johnson – referring to his statements on economic growth, NHS spending and nurses’ bursaries – before adding: “It’s dangerous to lie in a pandemic.”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments