The Andrew Marr Show
Commenting on an image published overnight that appears to show Boris Johnson leading a Christmas party quiz in Downing Street last year, the Labour leader Keir Starmer told viewers that the Prime Minister is “the worst possible leader at the worst possible time”. He added that it appears Johnson was breaking the law and that the recent allegations have damaged his authority to the extent that he cannot “deliver the leadership that this country needs”.
- Asked whether Johnson broke the rules by hosting a Christmas quiz: “That new allegation is very serious and of course the reason it’s serious is that at the time the government was asking the public not to see loved ones and many people didn’t… many of them didn’t see their loved ones again.”
- He added: “It was only Wednesday that the Prime Minister stood up and said he was furious that he’d just found out that there may have been breaches of the rules in Downing Street, he was talking about the party on the 18 December, now we learn this morning that three days earlier he was involved – he was leading a quiz.”
- On the reports: “It was being said up to 24 people in one room, using their computer screens but actually involving themselves in a social event. So, he’ll be doubly furious now he finds that he himself has been involved in something which may have breached the rules.”
- Asked whether Johnson was breaking the law, given that London was under Tier 2 restrictions at the time: “Well, it looks as though he was and he must have known those other groups were in other rooms in his own building.”
- On why this is important: “He’s damaged his authority. He’s now so weak, his party is so divided he can’t deliver the leadership that this country needs… He can’t even discharge the basic functions of government. He’s the worst possible leader at the worst possible time.”
- Asked whether Johnson should resign: “Look, if me calling for him to resign led to his resignation that would be one thing but I live in the real world where I know that the most significant issues here is the breach of trust because we’re about to have further measures that are necessary… at that very moment the trust in the Prime Minister is at an all time low.”
- On ‘plan B’ restrictions: “The measures that are going to be introduced on Tuesday are necessary… and in those circumstances the Labour Party will show leadership, we will do what is in the public interest.”
- On the vote next week on those measures: “I’ve had lots of people saying to me, well of course, you could take political advantage of the Prime Minister’s weakness and bring him down on this but we have always acted in the public interest throughout this pandemic. We will do that on Tuesday. We will show the leadership that the Prime Minister is not able to show.”
- On Johnson: “He is a threat to public health… the critical question is: will the public follow the rules? And they have been following the rules, but now that trust is broken and many people are now saying, well, if the Prime Minister is going to allow breaking of the rules… why should I follow the rules?”
- On what Labour would do differently: “You’d have a government that is based on honesty and integrity, you’d have a government that was ahead of the curve not behind the curve and, actually, you’d have a government that had a culture of complying with standards in public office.”
- Asking what he is asking for from the government as “the price of your support” for the measures: “It won’t be the price of our support, Andrew, because I’m not supporting the government on Tuesday, I’m supporting the NHS and the public.”
- Pressed again on why Labour will vote with the government: “Andrew, are you seriously putting to me that on Tuesday for party political advantage I should vote against public health measures, which will protect our NHS? That is not – a Labour government under me will always act in the public interest.”
- On vaccine passports: “I am concerned about vaccine passports… But I am persuaded that it is necessary, particularly if it is linked to the alternative of a negative test, which is a lot of what venues have been operating.”
- On mandatory vaccination, and whether Labour would support it: “No, we don’t believe in mandatory vaccinations. There may be a case in relation to the NHS in April as proposed, but that’s contingent on a government – the government would have to deal with the workforce and the trade unions.”
- Asked whether he can say “absolutely” that there we no Labour parties last year: “I can and I am sure that evidence would have emerged if there had been. We were following the rules, as the vast majority of the public were.”
It "looks like he was" breaking the law by taking part in a virtual quiz in Downing Street last December
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) December 12, 2021
Trevor Phillips on Sunday
Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary and Chair of the Labour Party Anneliese Dodds said Labour has consistently “put public health over party politics” throughout the pandemic and will do so again by backing plan B measures in the parliamentary vote next week.
- Asked to confirm whether Labour will be voting with the government on plan B in parliament next week: “We’ve consistently put public health over party politics so yes we will be because we do need to protect public health.”
- On further restrictions: “Before any additional restrictions should even be contemplated, we’ve got to see government urgently taking a number of actions. They should be boosting the booster program… We need to see action on our schools, we’ve got less than half of the young people who should have been vaccinated by now actually having been vaccinated… And of course they haven’t fixed sick pay, either.”
- Asked whether she has confidence in the investigation into “Christmas parties and all of that”: “I wish it was into Christmas parties and all of that because it isn’t that we’ll be looking into all of the different parties that we’ve seen evidence of.”
- Put to her that the investigation is being expanded: “I’m encouraged if they genuinely are… but, frankly, of course this is going even beyond No. 10 because we have now heard that there have been social events which, for example, the Education Secretary took part in.”
- Asked whether Labour should be calling for Boris Johnson to resign: “I’m working everyday to get a new government… but when it comes to Prime Minister’s position, that’s ultimately in the hands of the Conservative Party.”
- Asked whether Johnson should resign: “We’ve been very clear that he is unfit for office but ultimately the resignation of a Conservative Prime Minister is in the hands of the Conservative Party, not the hands of the Labour Party.”
Nadhim Zahawi also appeared on the show this morning. He rejected the idea that Johnson has become a “liability”, arguing that the Prime Minister “works literally all hours to make sure we get through this pandemic”.
He said the Cabinet Secretary will “report rapidly” on the alleged Christmas parties at Downing Street, saying that the pictures reported in The Mirror today showed that the quiz was a “virtual Zoom call, not anything else”.
“What do we see in that picture? We see a prime minister on a virtual quiz night for ten to 15 minutes to thank his staff,” the Education Secretary said.
Zahawi claimed he is “proud” Johnson has delivered the vaccine program and “opened the economy”, asking the public to support the government because it has “delivered the best vaccination programme in history”.
Conservative backbencher Steve Baker told viewers: “I will vote against vaccine passports, I will vote against extending the face mask mandate, I’ll vote against mandatory vaccinations, a condition of NHS employment.”
Anneliese Dodds joined Tom Newton Dunn and Isabel Hardman, telling listeners that Keir Starmer is a “strong leader” and proclaimed that today is a “very, very dark day” for the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson.
- Asked whether Starmer lacks “the killer touch”: “Keir is not a killer. Keir is a strong leader, he’s an honest and straightforward leader. That is what our country needs right now, rather than the shambolic outfit that we have at the moment under Conservative rule.”
- On Johnson and why Labour is not calling for him to resign: “Labour can’t make the Prime Minister resign. That is in the gift of Conservative MPs. And they’ve got to stand up now and say enough is enough.”
- On the wider Conservative Party: “Not just the Prime Minister, but other senior Conservatives have simply behaved like there’s one rule for senior Conservatives and a totally different rule for everybody else.”
- She added: “They were even laughing about other people following the rules while they weren’t themselves. This really is a very, very dark day, I think for our Prime Minister and for the Conservative Party.”