Sunak not attending COP27 is “absolute failure of leadership”, Starmer says

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer has called on Rishi Sunak to attend the the UN’s 27th annual conference of the parties (COP27) on climate change and described the Prime Minister’s decision not to do so as an “absolute failure of leadership”.

In an interview this morning, the Labour leader accused the Conservatives of having “crashed the economy” and warned that working people are “paying the price”. He also said discussion over the extent to which the government will make spending cuts has “become an issue only because the government has crashed the economy”.

“The Prime Minister should be going to COP. He needs to show leadership. This is a hugely important issue – climate change – it’s wound together with the energy crisis and I think many people would be expecting the Prime Minister of the UK not just to attend COP but to use it as an opportunity to pull world leaders together,” he said.

“If that doesn’t happen, it’s a failure of a leadership. If I was Prime Minister, I would be going. I would be convening and pulling people together and sorting out the issues that are confronting people.

“Talking to people this morning who can’t pay their energy bills, they expect their Prime Minister to be on the world stage sorting these problems out. It’s an absolute failure of leadership.”

Starmer also criticised the Prime Minister for reappointing Suella Braverman as Home Secretary six days after she resigned from the position for breaching the ministerial code by sending confidential documents from a personal email account to a Tory backbench MP. The Labour leader called on Sunak to sack Braverman.

“This whole episode shows us just how weak the Prime Minister is. I think he’s done a grubby deal, trading security for support so he didn’t have to go through a full election to become Prime Minister and leader of his party,” Starmer said.

“And it really matters. I’ve been the director of public prosecutions. I know how important it is for the Home Secretary to be trusted because others have to share documents with her. And to be sacked last week for breaching security and now being put back in place as the Home Secretary is an act of weakness from the Prime Minister. He should sack her. That would be the strong thing to do. That’s what I would do if I was Prime Minister.”

No 10 backed Braverman on Thursday, saying that the Home Secretary has a “strong relationship” with the security services after reports emerged that she was investigated over the leak of a story involving MI5. Four Conservative MPs and a former Home Secretary have publicly voiced concern about her reappointment.

The Daily Telegraph reported in January that Braverman was seeking an injunction to block a BBC story regarding a spy working for British intelligence. The briefing received by the paper damaged the government’s argument that publishing details of the court case could harm national security.

Braverman endorsed Sunak in his latest leadership bid over the weekend, effectively ending Boris Johnson’s bid to become Prime Minister again, after the resignation of Liz Truss last week. Sunak reappointed her as Home Secretary on Monday.

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