Mr Johnson famously extolled the Hampshire theme park as “my kind of place” in a bizarre speech to the CBI, hailing its safe streets and mass transit system.
Sir Keir went on the attack over the speech today, saying that the prime minister had failed to show the “respectful, grown-up relationship with business” which Labour was now offering.
His comments came in an interview with The Times in which he revealed he has written to each member of his new shadow cabinet, telling them they must show a “higher level of performance and delivery” in the 18 months ahead of a possible 2023 general election, focusing on support for British business, a new deal for working people, modern public services and claiming for Labour the mantle of “the party of patriotism and progress”.
Sir Keir said that to win the general election, Labour must become the party of middle England, building the trust of voters not only in the red wall seats lost to Tories in the Midlands and north in 2019, but also in blue wall Conservative strongholds in the south and across the UK.
Mr Johnson perplexed many in the audience for his keynote speech to the annual conference of UK’s premier business organisation last month when, moments after being left speechless after losing his place in his notes, he asked them to put their hands up if they had been to Peppa Pig World, the theme park based on the hugely popular TV cartoon for pre-school children.
As few of the CBI bigwigs lifted their hands, the PM told them: “Not enough. It’s fantastic. I loved it. Peppa Pig World is very much my kind of place.
“It has very safe streets, discipline in schools, heavy emphasis on mass transit systems, I notice, even if they are a bit stereotypical about Daddy Pig.”
But the Labour leader revealed that in the Starmer household, enthusiasm for Peppa was strictly limited to the younger generation.
“I have been to Peppa Pig World, of course I have,” he said. “It’s dreadful. Peppa Pig is hugely successful. Our daughter was absolutely in love with Peppa Pig for a very long time. I’ve seen no end of Peppa Pig programmes.”
And he said that Johnson’s comments highlighted the divide between the serious approach which he is attempting to take with Labour and the showmanship of a prime minister who he has previously branded “trivial”.
“This comes back to our central division between us and the Tories,” he said. “You do need serious government. You do need government that has a respectful, grown-up relationship with business. That’s what we’ve put on the table.”
The Labour leader admitted his party still has “a mountain to climb” to regain power, but said there were “red shoots” visible as voters grow tired of Mr Johnson’s performance and focus on his record of U-turns and the “toxic combination” of increased taxes and rising prices at a time of lower growth.
While voters want the government to succeed in a pandemic, the past six weeks have seen “cracks” develop in support for the Tories, he said.
“The benefit of the doubt is not there in the way that it was,” said Sir Keir. “The prime minister’s broken promises are catching up with him. What is beginning to be apparent to people is that this is hurting them.”
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