Labour’s Starmer slams Boris Johnson ‘circus’ in crime-fighting pitch
UK opposition leader highlights old foe’s record and talks up his prosecutor past.
LONDON — Labour leader Keir Starmer attacked the “circus” around Boris Johnson as he tried to slot the ex-prime minister’s dramatic parliamentary grilling into an anti-crime pitch.
In an address Thursday in the key election battleground of Stoke, Starmer brought up his old political foe’s interrogation by the House of Commons privileges committee. The cross-party group spent much of Wednesday afternoon probing whether Johnson misled MPs over rule-breaking gatherings in government offices at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Starmer — formerly director of public prosecutions (DPP) — sought to link the issue to his own host of anti-crime promises that he hopes will persuade voters that Labour has their back on an issue traditionally seen as a Conservative strength.
The Labour leader said his own time as DPP — attacked by some Conservatives — meant he “found the pandemic parties in Downing Street under Boris Johnson so reprehensible” and the “circus of the last few days — a reminder of [Johnson’s] total disrespect for a national sacrifice.”
The Labour leader faced his own moment in the COVID spotlight last year. He was cleared by police of breaching lockdown rules at an election campaign dinner that took place in April 2021. Starmer had promised to resign if found to be at odds with the law.
“I just couldn’t have looked the British people in the eye and asked for their trust,” he said of that row. “These values are too important to me, the core of my politics today — so if the Tories want to attack me for being a human rights lawyer, attack the values I’ve stood up for my whole life, I say: fine.
“That only shows how far they’ve fallen, and how little they understand working people.”
Starmer’s latest attack on Johnson came as he unveiled fresh policies aimed at shoring up Labour’s anti-crime credentials.
The opposition leader is promising to drive up confidence in the police and criminal justice system to its highest levels; halve serious violent crime; and halve violence against women and girls over the next decade. His speech comes in the week a highly critical official report on London’s Metropolitan Police — launched after high-profile crimes against women by serving officers — urged major reform of the U.K.’s biggest force.
“You can’t defeat misogyny without robust policing, but you can’t have robust policing without defeating misogyny,” said Starmer.
Conservative Policing Minister Chris Philp hit back, accusing Starmer of “just saying whatever suits him politically.” Labour had, Philp argued, “let Britain down by voting against tougher sentences for violent offenders and intervening to stop deportation flights, choosing to keep foreign criminals in Britain.”