Sir Keir Starmer has slammed Boris Johnson for not understanding his own coronavirus restrictions during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), as the prime minister called for more support from the Labour leader.
On Tuesday, the prime minister contradicted government advice and told people in the North East they could continue to socialise in groups of six indoors under new restrictions set to come into force that evening.
He was soon forced to retract his statement and apologised for “misspeaking”.
Picking up on the colossal blunder, opposition leader Sir Keir accused the prime minister of causing more confusion for newly locked-down communities.
Sir Keir said: “One of the major problems we’ve seen over the past 24 hours is the confusion about local restrictions. And I don’t just mean the prime minister forgetting his own rules.
“I’ve been sitting opposite the prime minister at PMQs every week. That didn’t come as a surprise to me.”
Sir Keir went on to quote the Conservative leader of Bolton city council who criticised the government’s handling of new lockdown measures in the area.
“It’s breeding resentment. It’s become too complex, too complicated. People feel very let down, very frustrated, very forgotten,” he read out.
“If the prime minister doesn’t know his own rules and nor do council leaders, how does the prime minister expect the rest of the country to understand and follow the rules?”
Taking to the despatch box, Johnson said: “I think the people do understand and do overwhelming follow the rules in spite of the leader of the opposition continually sniping form the sidelines and undermining what we’re trying to do.”
Johnson said he cleared up any doubts over new restrictions and reiterated that people could not socialise indoors.
Taking aim at Sir Keir, he said: “Can I ask him be to be a little more consistent, show some support, and let’s hear him instil some confidence in the measures that he supports.”
Sir Keir replied: “The idea that anyone who asks the prime minister a question during Prime Minister’s Questions is undermining the government effort is wearing a bit thin.
“It’s perfectly reasonable to ask why they’re not working.”