PMQs: Keir Starmer accuses PM of putting ‘rhetoric’ ahead of the people

PUBLISHED: 12:40 15 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:10 15 July 2020

Sir Keir Starmer and prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons; PA

Sir Keir Starmer and prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons; PA

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Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of spurting “rhetorical nonsense” over a question on the government’s plans to save jobs during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

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Prime minister Boris Johnson criticised the Labour leader for scrutinising his government’s policy to keep employed through the coronavirus crisis.

Taking a question on why Downing Street had not introduced “sector specific” bailout packages, Johnson raged: “I must say Mr Speaker, he [Sir Keir] has to work out whether to support or oppose the government’s programme to get people into work.”

“Last week, the shadow chancellor said she supported our programme, this week he says he opposes it, which is it?” he said pointing to the opposition leader.

Sir Keir fired back, accusing the prime minister of sharing “rhetorical nonsense”.

“It is perfectly proper and right for the opposition to set out the parts of the package that we support with the government and highlight where there are problems,” he insisted.

“And the problem with the prime minister’s dismissal of this is that since the chancellor sat down last week around 10,000 people have lost their jobs.”

“The prime minister should focus on them and not the rhetoric.”

Sir Keir had earlier claimed the government’s jobs strategy risked “costing thousands of jobs”.

“One of the sectors, aviation, has already seen huge redundancies. BA have announced 12,000 redundancies, Virgin, 3,000, easyJet 1,900,” he said.

Johnson insisted the government was doing “a huge amount” to support the aviation sector, pointing to Virgin coming “out of the Birch process after extremely difficult, but in the end, productive conversations.”

Starmer later hit out at the prime minister’s rhetoric over the test, track and trace system.

He told the Commons grieving families would “like a prime minister who stands up and says ‘there are problems and this is what I’m going to do about them’. Not this rhetoric about ‘stunning success’ when it’s obviously not true.”

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