Keir Starmer has declared that the country needs leadership that “it can trust”, after a week in which Boris Johnson has been mired in allegations of dishonesty, as the Labour leader reiterated that his party will support new restrictions.
Starmer addressed the public this evening in a televised message on Covid. It followed Boris Johnson’s own broadcast on Sunday night, in which the Prime Minister warned that the country should expect a “tidal wave of Omicron”.
In the recorded message aired at 7pm on BBC One, the Labour leader said: “At this time we need leadership. Leadership that the country can trust. It’s a big national effort and we all have our part to play. Get Britain boosted. Protect the NHS and save lives.”
He said his party would support the government, as its “patriotic duty”, in a vote on Tuesday to approve the decision to shift to ‘plan B’ measures to contain the virus. Johnson announced the move in a Covid press conference last week.
“We are a patriotic party. And it is our patriotic duty to vote for these measures to ensure that they go through. In doing so, we are supporting the NHS and supporting our country,” Starmer said this evening.
“But rest assured, I will still hold the government to account in the coming weeks. That is also in the national interest.”
According to polling by Ipsos MORI released today, Johnson has fallen 13 points behind Starmer on who would make the most capable Prime Minister following the multiple allegations that Downing Street staff broke Covid rules.
The Prime Minister has been accused of dishonesty repeatedly over the past two weeks after denying knowledge of parties in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year. Allegations include more than one party and a Christmas quiz that Johnson appears to have hosted.
Starmer tonight called on people to make a “big national effort” to get their booster jabs, “protect the NHS and save lives”. Johnson revealed on Sunday that the Covid booster jab programme was being extended to everyone over the age of 18.
“Our shared national duty is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NHS heroes and the committed volunteers supporting them,” Starmer said.
“The Labour Party that I lead will always act in Britain’s best interests. The Labour Party that I lead will always do everything within its power to protect the NHS.”
MPs will vote on Tuesday evening on ‘plan B’ measures. The Prime Minister is facing the biggest rebellion of his premiership as up to 100 Conservatives have reportedly indicated that they are considering voting against or abstaining.
Starmer dismissed using the vote as an opportunity to inflict a defeat on Johnson, telling The Andrew Marr Show that Labour has “always acted in the public interest throughout this pandemic” and would do so again this week.
Below is the full statement delivered Keir Starmer this evening.
Good evening. Christmas is a time for family, for friends and for neighbours. To be with them, yes, but also to care for them and protect them. This Christmas, once again, we are at a critical moment in our fight against Covid. The new variant, Omicron, is spreading fast. And the argument that we don’t know enough about it doesn’t stack up. We may not be certain how dangerous it is but we do know that lives are at risk.
And again our NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed. If that happens more people will die. So we must do everything that we can to protect the NHS. Scientists are clear: our best defence is the booster jab; the vaccine is safe and effective; it protects us, and those around us. That’s why Labour supports the government’s plan to get every adult boosted by the end of the month.
And, personally, I want to urge every one of you to book an appointment – or go to a walk in centre – as soon as you can. We must also use this Christmas break to vaccinate children over 12 and stop the spread in schools. If you haven’t had your first or second jab. Now is the time to come forward. It matters more than ever. And let’s face it, a booster for every adult before the end of the month is a big challenge which is why we argued that the government should have stepped up sooner. But time and time again the British people have risen to the challenge.
So let’s pull together now and do the right thing once more. At times like this, we must all put the national interest first and play by the rules. Of course, I understand that sticking to the rules can be inconvenient but stick to the rules we must. It would be easy to let the festivities we’ve all been looking forward to, divert us from our national duty. Getting jabbed, wearing masks and working from home if we can really will help prevent infections and help prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for everything you have done so far and everything you will do in the coming weeks. Your efforts will save lives. I also want to thank our brilliant NHS workers for their dedication, their skill and their sheer hard work. We are so fortunate in this country to have the NHS. We must do everything we can, collectively, to preserve and protect it. We spent the early months of the pandemic applauding the brilliant efforts of the NHS. Now our shared national duty is to stand shoulder to shoulder with our NHS heroes and the committed volunteers supporting them.
The Labour Party that I lead will always act in Britain’s best interests. The Labour Party that I lead will always do everything within its power to protect the NHS. The NHS that has done so much good since Labour founded it almost 75 years ago. As leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, it is my solemn duty to challenge the government where necessary. The health, safety and security of our nation and its people must always be the first priority.
That’s why we will always support measures designed to protect public health. That includes the measures in ‘plan B’. We are a patriotic party. And it is our patriotic duty to vote for these measures to ensure that they go through. In doing so, we are supporting the NHS and supporting our country. But rest assured, I will still hold the government to account in the coming weeks. That is also in the national interest. Meanwhile, I’m asking all of you to do your bit too.
At this time we need leadership. Leadership that the country can trust. It’s a big national effort and we all have our part to play. Get Britain boosted. Protect the NHS and save lives. And from my family to yours, I wish you a very happy Christmas.