Keir Starmer has told Boris Johnson that “the game is up” and urged Conservative backbenchers to remove the Prime Minister from office following the publication of the findings of an investigation into the ‘partygate’ scandal.
Following the publication of the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray this morning, which investigated 16 events held in breach of rules introduced during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Boris Johnson delivered a statement to the Commons.
Johnson previously told parliament that the rules had been followed in Downing Street and has since been accused of misleading the Commons. He said today that at the time he made those comments he was telling MPs “what I believed to be true”.
Gray concluded in the 37-page document, which included several photos of Johnson enjoying food and drink in crowded rooms during the pandemic, that “the senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility”.
The Labour leader told parliament this afternoon that the report by Gray would “stand as a monument to the hubris and the arrogance of a government that believed it was one rule for them and another rule for everyone else”.
Starmer added that the findings show “the rot that under this Prime Minister has spread in No 10” and the report “provides definitive proof of how those within the building treated the sacrifices of the British people with utter contempt”.
He highlighted comments by the Prime Minister when the allegations first emerged, that the Covid rules had been followed, telling his parliamentary colleagues that it is “now impossible to defend the Prime Minister’s words”.
A gathering on November 13th was mentioned in the report but not investigated by Gray. The document published today, however, included photos from that date in which the Prime Minister can be seen raising a glass in a crowded room. He specifically told parliament that there had been no party on November 13th.
“This is about trust, because during that May 20th press conference the British people were told: normal life as we know it is a long way off. But that wasn’t the case in No 10,” the Labour leader declared this afternoon.
He also described comparison between the investigation into whether he broke Covid restrictions during a trip to Durham in 2021 as wrong, saying: “I haven’t broken any rules and any attempt to compare a perfectly legal takeaway while working to this catalogue of criminality looks even more ridiculous today.”
He added: “But Mr Speaker, if the police decide otherwise, I will do the decent thing and step down. The public need to know that not all politicians are the same. That not all politicians put themselves above their country. That honesty, integrity and accountability matter.”
Starmer announced earlier this month that he would step down as leader of the Labour Party if Durham Constabulary issue him with a fixed-penalty notice. The police service has previously investigated the event and issued no fine, but recently decided to look at the alleged gathering again. Labour has said it was a work event.
“This Prime Minister is driving this country in the wrong direction. [Tory backbenchers] can hide in the back seat, eyes covered, praying for a miracle, or they can act. Stop this out-of-touch, out-of-control Prime Minister from driving Britain towards disaster. We waited for the Sue Gray report. The country can’t wait any longer,” Starmer said.
“Members opposite must finally do their bit. They must tell the current inhabitant [of No 10], their leader, that this has gone on too long. The game is up. You cannot be a lawmaker and a lawbreaker.”