Boris Johnson used a ‘deleted expletive’ to describe Keir Starmer following PMQs

PUBLISHED: 11:25 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:12 19 May 2020

Sir Keir Starmer and prime minister Boris Johnson during a session of PMQs in the House of Commons; Photograph: Parliament TV.

Sir Keir Starmer and prime minister Boris Johnson during a session of PMQs in the House of Commons; Photograph: Parliament TV.

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Boris Johnson has reportedly used a “deleted expletive” to describe Sir Keir Starmer following a debate over government coronavirus advice to care homes during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) last week.

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Johnson returned to Downing Street visibly “rattled” after a grilling from Sir Keir when he “used a deleted expletive” to describe the Labour leader, an insider told the Sunday Times.

Starmer accused the prime minister of misleading parliament after he denied his government had told care home providers that it was “very unlikely” that people receiving care “will become infected” with Covid-19 back in February.


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Downing Street hit back saying the advice was intended for a period when transmission rates in the UK were very low.

The newspaper reports the PM was “on edge” about the possibility of an inquiry into care homes when he made the comments, with insiders claiming Johnson is still suffering from the effects of the virus and is fatigued from caring for his newborn son, Wilfred.

The report also claims that he has clashed with his top civil servant, Mark Sedwill, over plans to contain the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, confusion over who will be exempt from new quarantine measures when entering the country has caused tension at the heart of government.

MORE: Keir Starmer calls for Boris Johnson to apologise for misleading MPs over coronavirus care home advice

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One source told the paper plans to devise a list were a “shitshow”. “They can’t even work out the exemptions. A lot of ministers wonder what the point is of taking up massive amounts of government bandwidth with this for no reason.”

Johnson is said to have lost confidence in health secretary Matt Hancock’s ability to run the contact tracing programme, causing unease among the two.

In the latest signs of strain, Tom Shinner, a civil servant who reports into Michael Gove and top government advisor Dominic Cummings, has been asked to evaluate a 15-minute “prick test” to tell if someone has had the virus. It was a task originally given to Matt Hancock.

Concerns about Johnson’s performance in the House of Commons has provoked Tory figureheads, including Commons leader Jacob-Rees Mogg, to request MPs return to parliament in order to provide the PM with “support”.

“They are desperate to get MPs back and get some jeering and booing going,” said one insider.

One Tory MP told the FT: “Starmer has the political wind behind him. He is a highly intelligent, detail-oriented person who was one of the best human rights advocates and prosecutors in the country.

“Boris is in a political difficulty that isn’t going away for a while. He’s not a details person, who is struggling to articulate what the point of his government is because no one knows beyond Brexit. Put those two together and he’s going to struggle for a while.”

This all follows news that Starmer’s net favourability ratings had leapt ahead of those of the prime minister, and that more now disapprove of the government’s handling of the crisis than approve.

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