Boris Johnson has responded to a question on a drop in public confidence in his government by accusing the Labour leader of trying to ‘distract’ the public from its lockdown guidance.
Starmer – appearing at Prime Minister’s Question (PMQs) – did not reference Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings in his questioning, but said ‘public trust and confidence in the government needed to be at its highest’ as lockdown is eased.
But, expressing concerns, the Labour leader referenced the director of the Reuters Institute who had conducted polling on government trust.
The director had said: ‘I have never, in ten years of research, seen such a drop in trust for the UK government.’
Starmer asked: ‘How worried is the prime minister in this drop in trust?’
But Johnson criticised the opposition leader’s ‘tone’ before accusing Starmer of trying to ‘distract’ the public.
He said: ‘I am surprised he should take that tone, Mr Speaker,’ before explaining that he had telephoned Starmer to brief him on the steps his government was taking.
The rattled prime minister said: ‘I think that he’s on better ground and firmer ground when he stands with the overwhelming majority of British people, who understand the very difficult circumstances we are in.’
He said that ‘they wanted clarity from across the political spectrum.’
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Without any irony Johnson said that we need to continue to ‘observe the basic rules on social distancing, on washing our hands, and on making sure when we have symptoms we take a test and we isolate.’
He added: ‘I think his attempts to distract the public from that have not been successful, because they continue to pay attention to our guidance’.
Sir Keir pointed out that Johnson was ‘confusing scrutiny for attacks’, before adding: ‘I have supported the government openly and I’ve taken criticism for it, but boy he makes it difficult to support this government over the last two weeks.’