Starmer: PM should resign but he won’t – because he is a man without shame

Keir Starmer
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Below is the full text of Keir Starmer’s statement in parliament responding to Boris Johnson’s words on the Sue Gray report update. 

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would like to thank Sue Gray for the diligence and professionalism with which she has carried out her work. It is no fault of hers that she only been able to provide an update and not yet the full report.

The Prime Minister repeatedly told the House that all guidance were followed at all time. We now know that 12 cases, 12 cases, have reached the threshold for criminal investigation – which I remind the House means that there is evidence of serious and flagrant breaches of lockdown, including:

The party on 20 May 2020, which we know the PM attended, and the party on the 13 November 2020 in the PM’s flat. There can be no doubt the Prime Minister is now under criminal investigation.

The PM must keep his promise to publish Sue Gray’s report in full when it is available, but it is already clear that the report discloses the most damning conclusion possible.

Over the last two years the British public have been asked to make the most heart wrenching sacrifices. A terrible collective trauma. Endured by all, enjoyed by none.

Funerals have been missed. Dying relatives unvisited. Every family has been marked by what we’ve been through. And revelations about the Prime Minister’s behaviour have forced us all to relive and rethink those darkest moments. Many have been overcome by rage, grief, and even guilt.

Guilt – that because they stuck to the law they did not see their parents one last time. Guilt – that because they didn’t bend the rules their children went months without seeing friends. Guilt – that because they did as they were asked they didn’t go and visit lonely relatives.

But people shouldn’t feel guilty. They should feel pride in themselves and in their country. Because by abiding by those rules. They have saved the lives of people they will probably never meet.

They have shown the deep public spirit. And the love and respect for others that has always characterised this nation at its best.

Our national story about Covid is one of a people that stood up when it was tested. But that will forever be tainted by the behaviour of this Conservative Prime Minister.

By routinely breaking the rules he set, the Prime Minister took us all for fools. He held people’s sacrifice in contempt. He showed himself unfit for office.

His desperate denials since he was exposed have only made matters worse.

First, the Prime Minister said there were no parties. Then he said he was sickened and furious about the parties.

Then it turned out he was there. Rather than come clean, every step of the way he has offended the public’s intelligence.

Finally, he’s fallen back on his usual excuse – it’s everybody’s fault but his. They go, he stays.

Even now, he is hiding behind a police investigation into criminality in his home, and in his office. He gleefully treats what should be a mark of shame as a welcome shield.

But, Prime Minister, the British public aren’t fools. They never believed a word of it. They think the Prime Minister should do the decent thing and resign.

Of course, he won’t. Because he is a man without shame. And just as he has done throughout his life, he is damaging everyone and everything around him along the way.

His colleagues have spent weeks defending the indefensible. Touring the TV studios parroting his absurd denials. Degrading themselves and their offices.

Fraying the bond of trust between the government and the public, eroding our democracy and the rule of law.

Margaret Thatcher once said: “The first duty of government is to uphold the law. If it tries to bob and weave and duck around that duty when it is inconvenient, then so will the governed.”

To govern this country is an honour. Not a birth-right. It’s an act of service to the British people. Not the keys to a court to parade to your friends. It requires honesty. Integrity. And moral authority.

I cannot tell you how many times people have said to me that this Prime Minister’s lack of integrity is somehow “priced in”. That his behaviour and character don’t matter. I have never accepted that. And I never will accept that.

Whatever your politics. Whatever party you vote for. Honesty and decency matter. Our great democracy depends on it. And cherishing and nurturing British democracy is what it means to be patriotic.

There are members opposite who know that. And they know the Prime Minister is incapable of it. The question they must ask themselves is what are they going to do about it?

They can go on degrading themselves. Eroding trust in politics. And insulting the sacrifice of the British public. They can heap their reputations, the reputation of their party, and the reputation of this country, on the bonfire that is his leadership.

Or they can spare the country from a Prime Minister totally unworthy of his responsibilities. It is their duty to do so. They know better than anyone how unsuitable he is for high office.

Many of them knew in their hearts that we would inevitably come to this moment. And they know that as night follows day, continuing his leadership will mean further misconduct, cover-up, and deceit.

It is only they who can end this farce. The eyes of the country are upon them. They will be judged on the decisions they take now.

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