Boris Johnson dismisses Keir Starmer's 'serial leaking' claims as 'trivia'

25 November 2020, 17:19

By Ewan Somerville

Boris Johnson has accused Keir Starmer of “concentrating on trivia” after he was pressed on “serial leaking” in his Government and allegations of bullying and cronyism.

The Labour leader hit out at the Prime Minister for a “clean sweep” of ministerial code breaches and urged him to stop “wasting” taxpayers’ cash.

He referred to Mr Johnson’s foreword to the code last year in which he insisted there must be no bullying, no harassment, no leaking, no misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

Listing the pledges in a fiery Prime Minister's Questions, Sir Keir said: “That’s five promises in two sentences. How many of those promises does the prime minister think his ministers have kept?”

But Mr Johnson scolded Sir Keir for “pathetic lines of attack” and defended his decision not to sack Home Secretary Priti Patel after a report found she bullied staff.

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“I make no apology for standing by a home secretary who is getting on with delivering the people’s priorities,” Mr Johnson said, adding that Patel had shown a “steely determination” in her work.

The Labour leader also raised the leaking of England's second national lockdown and decisions about Covid-19 tiers to newspapers, and spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts.

Quizzed on the Downing Street leak inquiry underway, Mr Johnson told the Commons: “He makes various attacks on my leadership and the handling of the ministerial code, I take them a lot more seriously frankly if the leader of the opposition could explain whether or why [Jeremy Corbyn] is still a member of the Labour Party. Does he support [Mr Corbyn’s] continued membership of the Labour Party – yes or no? Why doesn’t he answer that question?”

He was then reprimanded by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who pointed out: “It actually is Prime Minister's Questions, not Leader of the Opposition questions.”

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In their final exchanges, Sir Keir said: “I think it’s a clean sweep – bullying, harassment, leaking, wasting public money and obvious conflicts of interest.

“It’s the same old story: one rule for the British public, another for the Prime Minister and his friends.

“Just look at the contrast between his attitude to spraying public money on contracts that don’t deliver, and his attitude to pay rises for the key workers who kept the country going during this pandemic.

“If you’ve got a hotline to ministers, you get a blank cheque, but if you’re on the front line tackling Covid, you’re picking up the bill.

“So will the Prime Minister finally get his priorities right, stop wasting taxpayers’ money and give police officers, firefighters, care workers and other key workers the pay rise they so obviously deserve?”

Mr Johnson replied: “It’s this party and this Government that has given key workers, public sector workers, above inflation pay rises this year as he knows – for police, for the Army, for nurses who are now getting 12.6% more than they were three years ago.

“And it’s this Government that will continue increasing the living wage.”