'Chaos, confusion and cronyism': Starmer slams PM and Chancellor over isolation U-turn

19 July 2021, 14:49

Sir Keir Starmer launched a scathing attack on the government's handling of the pandemic
Sir Keir Starmer launched a scathing attack on the government's handling of the pandemic. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the government of "chaos, confusion and cronyism" following Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak's self-isolation U-turn.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sir Keir launched a scathing attack on the pair, accusing them of only quarantining because of the furious backlash they had received.

"Let's be clear: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak only went into isolation because they were busted," he said.

"We've seen once again their instincts on show, one rule for them, another for the rest of us.

"The government needs to publish all the details of how ministers deem themselves eligible for this scheme at a time when the public have not had the same access to it."

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Labour leader criticises Prime Minister's U-turn over self-isolation

It comes after the prime minister and chancellor backtracked on their plans to be part of a daily Covid testing pilot, which would have allowed them to continue working from Downing Street and avoid self-isolation.

Politicians and the public responded angrily to the announcement, accusing the government of having "one rule for them, and another rule for us".

Sir Keir Starmer continued: "This cannot go on, the public need clear leadership at this time, not this hypocritical way of trying to do things that just undermine confidence in the rules and put lives at risk.

"We can't afford to get this wrong. The price will pay is too high."

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He added: "The chaotic, incompetent way Boris Johnson conducts himself is dangerous. It makes for bad government and it has deadly consequences for the British public."

The Labour leader told reporters: "His character causes chaos. His leadership causes mayhem. Labour does not support the government's plan. Lifting all restrictions in one go is reckless."

Sir Keir also called on Boris Johnson to release a list of Conservative ministers who had been part of a trial where they would not have to self-isolate if pinged by the Covid app.

He said: "There are hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to miss family events, close businesses and go without pay, because they have done the right thing.

"And yet ministers have played the system."

Did someone make up the idea the PM was going into a pilot scheme?

Sir Keir said Labour would keep measures recommending working from home, the mandatory wearing of face coverings and encouraging ventilation.

He added that his party would also accelerate the vaccination programme for young people and improve the sick pay offer.

Asked whether he was comfortable with nightclubs reopening and social distancing being dropped, he said: "The big difference between us is that we think lifting all these restrictions, all these protections, in one go today is reckless.

"Masks, working from home if you can and ventilation plans are the three things that Sage identified as materially keeping the infection rates down."

He then said he was still using the Covid app and had his contact tracing turned on, adding that reducing the sensitivity of the app was like "taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm".