Tories call for Starmer to apologise to Boris Johnson after Commons spat

20 April 2022, 21:17

Tory MPs have called on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to apologise.
Tory MPs have called on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to apologise. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Conservatives have called on Sir Keir Starmer to apologise after a fiery PMQs with Boris Johnson.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

It was reported that during the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers on Tuesday that the PM had said that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the BBC were "less vociferous" in their criticism of Vladimir Putin than the government's Rwanda migrant plan.

Labour leader Sir Keir called for Mr Johnson to apologise for those claims during PMQs on Wednesday.

Instead, Mr Johnson accused him of having a "tiny mind" and denied making the remarks about the BBC.

Speaking during PMQs, Sir Keir said: "The Prime Minister also accused the BBC of not being critical enough of Putin.

"Would the Prime Minister have the guts to say that to the face of (BBC reporters) Clive Myrie, Lyse Doucet and Steve Rosenberg, who have all risked their lives day in, day out, on the frontline in Russia and Ukraine uncovering Putin's barbarism?"

Read more: Marr: Spat between Boris and Keir is personal and visceral now - they loathe each other

Read more: Belligerent Boris admits breaking the law over Partygate in fiery clash with Sir Keir

Andrew Marr: PM and Sir Keir Starmer 'really loathe each other'

The Prime Minister responded: "I said nothing of the kind and I have the highest admiration - as a former journalist - for what journalists do. I think they do an outstanding job.

"I think he should withdraw what he just said - it has absolutely no basis or foundation in truth."

Sir Keir went on to ask: "How can the Prime Minister claim to be a patriot when he deliberately attacks and degrades the institutions of our great country?"

Mr Johnson shot back: "I did not attack the BBC last night for their coverage of Ukraine. He must be out of his tiny mind."

Tory MPs would be prepared to "testify to that", he added.

Boris Johnson is 'incredibly proud of the BBC', says Tory MP

Following the Commons spat, Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden wrote to Sir Keir calling for him to retract his comments and instead apologise to Mr Johnson.

"I am not aware that you have any evidence whatsoever to support this inaccurate claim," he said.

He went on to add: "I call on you to retract your comments and apologise to the Prime Minister and the House for your false characterisation and misleading Parliament."

The Conservatives tweeted: "Keir Starmer says he stands for honesty in politics.

"If he actually means it, he should come back to the House and correct the record."

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng later retweeted the letter, with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries also appearing to back the call for an apology when she also retweeted the letter.

In response, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeted: "That's the sound of Oliver scraping a barrel…"

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: "Johnson has completely lost it.

"A floundering disgrace. Couldn't deny smearing the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Our country is so much better than this Prime Minister."

Tories are rallying to defend the embattled Prime Minister.

An amendment was tabled on Wednesday evening to a motion on investigating the Prime Minister for misleading MPs over Partygate, saying it should take place after the Sue Gray report.