Keir Starmer says Boris Johnson must resign ‘in the national interest’

Labour leader says PM is ‘literally in hiding’ and unable to govern

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 15 January 2022 19:07
Johnson has ‘lost moral authority to lead’ and ‘must go’, says Starmer

Boris Johnson is unfit to run the country and must resign “in the national interest”, Keir Starmer has said, as he ramped up the pressure on the prime minister over allegations of illegal parties in Downing Street during lockdown.

In a speech on Saturday, the Labour leader said the prime minister was “mired in deceit” and was “literally in hiding” after Mr Johnson cancelled all public appearances following a member of his family testing positive for Covid.

Some Tory MPs have called for the prime minister to quit, as the constant stream of revelations about lockdown parties at No 10 shows no sign of letting up.

But Mr Johnson is said to be in the “last chance saloon” with his own party, despite most polls now showing the Tory vote share in wholesale collapse.

Speaking at the Fabian Society’s new year conference in London, opposition leader Sir Keir told his audience: “We are witnessing the broken spectacle of a prime minister mired in deceit and deception, unable to lead.”

He said that while “the Tories bicker and fight each other on WhatsApp, I want to look to the future”, adding: “The moral authority matters of course in relation to Covid, but we’ve got other massive challenges facing this country.

“We’ve got a prime minister who is absent – he is literally in hiding at the moment and unable to lead, so that’s why I’ve concluded that he has got to go.

“And of course there is a party advantage in him going, but actually it is now in the national interest that he goes, so it is very important now that the Tory party does what it needs to do and gets rid of him.”

Asked about the allegations of “wine-time Fridays”, Sir Keir added: “It doesn’t matter whether the prime minster was present or not present – ultimately, he is responsible for what goes on in the government, he’s responsible for the culture in No 10, and what we’re seeing is a culture where there’s one rule for them and the rest of us do what we’re told.”

Most polls now show Sir Keir’s party with a lead of around 10 points over Mr Johnson’s, mostly due to a radical collapse in the governing Tories’ vote share in the wake of the Partygate revelations.

Conservative MPs report being deluged with angry correspondence from constituents demanding that Mr Johnson resigns.

But the prime minister has cancelled public appearances after a family member reportedly tested positive for Covid, and has not been seen outside Downing Street in recent days.

Senior Tory and former minister Tobias Ellwood told the BBC on Saturday that the prime minister had to “lead or step aside”, adding: “We need leadership.”

And Andrew Bridgen MP, a one-time ally of Mr Johnson over Brexit, said: “I don’t need to see what Sue Gray says to know that for me Boris Johnson has lost the moral authority to lead the country.”

Mr Bridgen added: “If there’s another emergency where he has to call on the public to make sacrifices, he doesn’t have that authority. That makes his position, in my book, as prime minister completely untenable.”

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