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

20 April 2022, 18:13

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

By Will Taylor

Andrew Marr believes the encounters between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer have descended into a "poisoned" atmosphere.

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He believes the Prime Minister and Labour leader "now really loathe each other" and the spat between them, following Partygate, has become "personal" and "visceral".

Opening LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, he said: "So, in the Commons today, we saw a vicious verbal fight between Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer.

"At one level it meant nothing: this was a relatively trivial argument about whether the Prime Minister did, or did not, accuse the BBC of being soft on Putin's invasion of the Ukraine during a private meeting of Tory MPs last night.

"But something in the atmosphere has changed. The air here at Westminster has become poisoned. Week in, week out, you get a lot of synthetic anger at Prime Minister's Questions - the pretence of outrage by professional politicians who are playing a game.

"But believe me, this was different. These two men, leading Britain's biggest political parties now really loathe each other.

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"It's personal. It's visceral. From now on, right up to the next general election day, their feud is going to affect the tone and feel of British politics.

"So yes, it does matter. And this evening my first job is to try, so far as I can, to find out the truth about their spat.

Sir Keir, speaking during PMQs, talked about remarks attributed to Mr Johnson at a Tory backbench meeting on Tuesday night when he accused the BBC of not being critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Andrew said: "It's a private meeting. Keir Starmer of course wasn't there. He seemed to be basing his accusation on newspaper reports.

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"The Daily Telegraph front page headline for instance read 'BBC more critical of No10 than Putin - PM'.

"Its story, like those in other newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Times, said the Prime Minister had accused the BBC of being 'less vociferous' about Putin than about the Rwanda refugee policy.

"That was a line briefed out after the meeting by the Prime Minister's communications chief Guto Harri, to a cluster of political journalists using notes on his phone, and he has confirmed to me that their stories were broadly accurate.

"But, saying the Corporation was being less vociferous in criticising Putin than in criticising the Rwanda policy isn't quite the same - is it - as attacking the BBC for not being critical enough of Vladimir Putin."

Boris Johnson was furious over the BBC claim, and during PMQs he explosively remarked that Sir Keir was "out of his tiny mind".

Andrew went on: "Was Boris Johnson protesting a little too much? Was he grabbing at a verbal distinction to finally vent his rage on a Labour politician who has been tormenting him at the dispatch box, accusing him of being a shameless liar?

"Whatever you think, it does look to me as if Keir Starmer's office read the headline and then didn't go through the rest of the story attentively enough… and if that's true then, as a man who fights for scrupulousness and honour every day, surely Keir Starmer will have to apologise and withdraw as the Tory chairman Oliver Dowden has just demanded."