Sir Keir Starmer has said Boris Johnson has a habit of “running away” from tough issues after being confronted over Labour’s abstention from a vote on new lockdown measures.
In his first session of Prime Minister’s Questions since having to self-isolate, Johnson sought to pin some of the economic turmoil behind the collapse of clothing giant Arcadia onto Labour.
Johnson said: “It is a bit much that the right honourable gentleman should attack the economic consequences of the fight against the coronavirus when last night neither he, nor his troops, could be bothered to vote for measures that would open up the economy and allow businesses to trade.
“How can he attacked the economic consequences of our battle against coronavirus when he won’t even support measures to open up the economy.”
Labour abstained from a vote to pass new coronavirus measures replacing England’s national lockdown. Despite a sizable rebellion from Tory MPs, the legislation passed 291 to 78 on Tuesday evening.
Sir Keir explained: “When I abstain, I come to the House and explain. When the prime minister abstains, he runs off to Afghanistan and gives the taxpayer a £20,000 bill.”
He then pressed the prime minister on his economic recovery plan for UK businesses.
“Will the prime minister finally work with us – with the trade unions and the sector – to finally bring forward a comprehensive plan to save retail jobs and provide the sector with the much greater support it needs through this crisis?
“These are real people, Mr Prime Minister, with real jobs and who are facing the sack. They really need to hear from you.”
Johnson responded: “We’re getting on with our programme of rolling out the vaccine and sensible tiering measures, under which we’re delivering more hospitals and 20,000 more police officers.”