PMQs: Boris Johnson slammed by Keir Starmer for refusing to apologise over care home comments

PUBLISHED: 12:40 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:50 08 July 2020

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor.

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor.

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Boris continued to evade calls to apologise for comments he made about the spread of coronavirus in care homes, telling the Commons he didn’t say anything wrong during a fiery session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs)

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the PM to apologise for comments suggesting care home staff were to blame for the spread of coronavirus, costing the lives of more than 19,000 elderly patients.

Sir Keir said: “On Monday, when asked why care home deaths had been so high the prime minister said, and I quote, ‘too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have’.

“That has caused huge offence to frontline care workers. It has now been 48 hours. Will the prime minister apologise to care workers?”

Johnson replied: “The last thing I wanted to do is to blame care workers for what has happened or for any of them to think that I was blaming them because they’ve worked hard, incredibly hard, throughout this crisis, looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our country and doing an outstanding job.”

“And as he knows, tragically, 257 of them have lost their lives.

“And when it comes to taking blame, I take full responsibility for what has happened.”

The Labour leader said the prime minister’s answer was “not an apology and it just won’t wash”.

Sir Keir said: “The prime minister said, his words, too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have. It was clear what he was saying.

“And the prime minister must understand just how raw this is for many people on the front line and for those who have lost loved ones.”

He added: “I ask the prime minister again, will he apologise to care workers, yes or no?”

Johnson continued his defence: “He keeps saying that I blamed or try to blame care workers and that is simply not the case. The reality is that we now know things about the way coronavirus is passed from person to person without symptoms that we just didn’t know.”

He added, pointing to Sir Keir: “Perhaps captain hindsight would like to tell us whether he knew that it was being transmitted asymptomatically.”
In a final attempt to force an apology, the Labour leader observed: “By refusing to apologise the prime minister rubs salt into the wounds of the very people that he stood at his front door and clapped.

“The prime minister and the health secretary must be the only people left in the country who think they put a protective ring around care homes. Those on the front line know that wasn’t the case.”

After Sir Keir quoted a frustrated care home manager, Johnson told the Commons that the government “appreciates the incredible work” of care home workers before pledging to reform the sector.

The prime minister said he hoped it would be on a “cross-party” basis to which Sir Keir agreed, although noted: “His government has been in power for 10 years with no plan. no White Paper. Of course we’ll join in plans for reforming social care but 10 years wasted.”

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