Boris Johnson has ‘lost the moral authority’ to lead the country and it is in the ‘national interest’ for him to resign, Sir Keir Starmer claimed on Saturday.
In a speech at the Fabian Society think tank in London, the Labour leader accused the embattled PM of going into hiding amid the ongoing Partygate scandal, telling Tory MPs to ‘do what they need to do’ to oust him.
Mr Johnson is not expected to be seen until next week after announcing he was ‘limiting contact’ after a family member tested positive for Covid.
It comes after he was forced to apologise to Parliament this week when a bombshell email revealed how his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, had invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’ – telling guests to bring their own alcohol.
The flames were fanned following reports on Friday that No10 hosted ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic, which Mr Johnson allegedly attended and encouraged, seemingly breaking the Covid restrictions his government had set in place.
Downing Street was also forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace after it emerged parties were held in Number 10 the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral last year – which the Queen had to attend alone.
In a speech at the Fabian Society think tank in London today (pictured), the Labour leader accused the embattled PM of going into hiding amid the ongoing Partygate scandal, telling Tory MPs to ‘do what they need to do’ to oust him
Boris Johnson is not expected to be seen until next week after announcing he was ‘limiting contact’ after a family member allegedly tested positive for Covid
The furore has seen the Conservatives slump in the polls, with some suggesting they are as much as 14 points behind Labour – leading to a growing number of Tory MPs to call for Mr Johnson to resign.
While fielding questions following his speech today, Sir Keir said: ‘What we’ve now got to is a situation where you have a Prime Minister who has lost the moral authority to lead.
‘And just when you need – because we are not out of the pandemic – a Government that has that moral authority to lead, we’ve lost it with this Prime Minister.’
He added: ‘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 vantage 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.’
While fielding questions following his speech, Sir Keir said: ‘What we’ve now got to is a situation where you have a Prime Minister who has lost the moral authority to lead.’
A YouGov poll for the Times has laid bare the scale of the damage being suffered by the government, showing the Tories slumping five points to just 28 per cent in less than a week
Sir Keir did not address allegations of hypocrisy from Tory MPs after video footage re-emerged of him from May 2021 drinking a beer while chatting to party staff indoors – which the Labour Party claimed did not break any rules as it was taken when he and his staff had paused for dinner during a work meeting.
But when asked if he was confident that he and other Labour MPs had behaved differently to Number 10, he said: ‘Yes, absolutely.’
He added: ‘When we collectively asked the nation to act in a particular way, it was very important that we act in the same way as the rest of the nation.’
Sir Keir said the so-called Partygate allegations had impacted on the public’s mental health.
He said: ‘I think, by the way, the scandal of partgate, for want of a better word… what’s happened in recent weeks, where it has become obvious that while the vast majority of the British public were obeying the laws the Government made, the Government and the Prime Minister were partying in Downing Street.
‘I think that has added to mental health stress because so many people are now asking themselves, ‘Why on earth did I do that then, while they were doing what they were doing?’.
Tory figures have criticised Sir Keir, highlighting a picture of the Labour leader from last year which appeared to show him drinking a beer while chatting to party staff indoors
Downing Street’s pandemic parties
May 15, 2020: THE GARDEN PARTY
A leaked photo showed Boris and Carrie Johnson with 17 senior Downing Street staff, sitting around cheese and wine. This took place during the first Covid lockdown at a time when only two people from different households could mix outdoors, socially distanced
May 20, 2020: BYOB BASH
A bombshell email from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’. He told guests to bring their own alcohol
November 13, 2020: LEE CAIN’S LEAVING DO
The PM allegedly made a leaving speech for his director of communications Lee Cain with a number of people gathered. The party is believed to have carried on upstairs that evening after Dominic Cummings unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street carrying a cardboard box.
November 27, 2020: CLEO WATSON’S LEAVING DO
Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. ’40 or 50 people’ were present. The aide was named as one newspaper as Cleo Watson, Dominic Cummings’ protégé.
December 15, 2020: CHRISTMAS QUIZ
Pictures obtained by the Sunday Mirror show Mr Johnson on a TV screen flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No10 library. A source claimed many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place. The Mirror said a message sent by No10’s head of HR on the night of the quiz advised that those who had stayed behind to take part ‘go out the back’ when they left. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’.
December 17, 2020: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, charged with probing Partygate, hosted a party after sending an email out to around 15 people in his Private Office titled ‘Christmas Quiz’.
December 18, 2020: ANOTHER CHRISTMAS PARTY Downing Street staffers allegedly hold their own festive party, with the PM not in attendance. Group size is also given as 40 to 50.
April 16, 2021: JAMES SLACK’S LEAVING DO
Advisers and civil servants drank alcohol and danced in No10’s basement and gardens to mark the departure of Boris Johnson’s press chief James Slack and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers. Witnesses claimed 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden, on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
May 26, 2021: A second, formal leaving event is held for James Slack inside No 10. More than a dozen allegedly attended.
‘So I think that, before the pandemic we had mental health issues which have got worse during the pandemic in greater ways than we’ve really understood, particularly in young people.
‘I think they are greater in work forces – I think in places like the NHS where the strain has been huge, we’ve probably got backed-up mental health problems.
‘And I think the last few weeks in relation to partygate has just made the situation worse, which is why it is so important we make those concrete offers in relation to mental health.’
Setting out his plan for NHS reform under a Labour government, the opposition leader told the conference in his speech: ‘We would guarantee mental health treatment in less than a month.
‘We’ll recruit over 8,500 more mental health professionals to support a million more people every year.
‘Every school will have specialist support, every community will have an open access mental health hub for young people.
‘Under Labour, spending on mental health will never be allowed to fall. Stress, depression and anxiety account for 18 million workdays lost every year.
‘We know that the more secure people feel about their jobs the less likely they are to suffer from stress and be absent from work, so we would expect employers to take wellbeing at work seriously.’
Sir Keir told of his ‘anger’ at the state of the NHS, and said the party would ‘make wellbeing matter as much as national economic output’.
He said: ‘It makes me angry. Angry that an important national institution is being allowed to decline.
‘Angry that this Government has the opportunity to do something good, but instead is doing nothing. And angry that so many people who could be helped are suffering.’
He added that a Labour government would introduce a new clean air act to tackle the ‘silent killer’ of air pollution.
He said: ‘Poor health affects our earnings, our relationships, and our sense of purpose. And its effects are measured in lower productivity and higher crime, in family breakdown and increased loneliness and depression.
‘So Labour would make wellbeing matter as much as national economic output.’
He accused the Conservatives of having made a ‘mess’ of the NHS.
He said: ‘The first task of a Labour government would be to clear up the mess that Tories have made of the NHS.
‘The last Labour government brought waiting times down from 18 months to 18 weeks. We will need to do the same again.’
He vowed that Labour will ‘invest properly to bring down waiting lists and we would start by recruiting, training and crucially retaining the staff that we need’.
He added that the party has a five-point plan for the transformation of social care.
Meanwhile, on Covid, Sir Keir said his party will set out in the coming days its plan for living with the virus.
‘As we repair and strengthen, we need to learn to live with Covid so that people can live their lives as normal, supported by a strong healthcare system,’ he said.
‘I don’t want the Government ever again to have to place tough restrictions on our lives, our livelihoods, and our liberties.
‘So I’m delighted to say that Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, will be setting out the details of our plan for living with Covid in the days to come.’
It came after he said he believed lives could have been saved by a ‘swifter’ response at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: ‘As I speak to you this morning, 150,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives.
‘I’m convinced that a swifter response by the Government could have reduced that number.’
Attacking the Conservative administration, the opposition leader said: ‘But while the Tories bicker and fight each other on Whatsapp, I want to look to the future because the NHS faces new challenges.
‘We are an ageing population – that fact was brutally exposed by a virus that hit the oldest the hardest.
‘We must devise new methods of care to help with long-term conditions, we need to think about mental as well as physical health and we need to think not just how we treat patients, but how we prevent them from falling ill in the first place.’
Elsewhere in his speech, the Labour leader blasted the decision to hike National Insurance, saying it would ‘hammer working people with an unfair tax’.
Asked whether a Labour government would repeal the National Insurance increase, due in April, he said: ‘We voted against the National Insurance rise last year because we do not think that the right way to pay for the health service, or social care for that matter, is to hammer working people with an unfair tax, particularly at the moment.’
He added: ‘We did set out the alternative which is that we would raise that money by looking to those with the broadest shoulders, and in particular we would look at people who are making their money from stocks and shares and dividends etc, as well as in the ordinary way.
‘So we would take a completely different approach, and that is the difference between us and the Tories here.
‘They’ve gone straight for a tax on working people at a time when people are already massively squeezed.’