Keir Starmer – 2022 Speech on Parties in Downing Street

The speech made by Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 19 April 2022.

What a joke!

Even now, as the latest mealy-mouthed apology stumbles out of one side of the Prime Minister’s mouth, a new set of deflections and distortions pours from the other. But the damage is already done. The public have made up their minds. They do not believe a word that the Prime Minister says. They know what he is.

As ever with this Prime Minister, those close to him find themselves ruined and the institutions that he vows to protect damaged: good Ministers forced to walk away from public service; the Chancellor’s career up in flames; the leader of the Scottish Conservatives rendered pathetic. Let me say to all those unfamiliar with this Prime Minister’s career that this is not some fixable glitch in the system; it is the whole point. It is what he does. It is who he is. He knows he is dishonest and incapable of changing, so he drags everybody else down with him. [Interruption.] The more people debase themselves, parroting—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. I cannot hear what is being said because there is so much noise. [Interruption.] Mr Fabricant, I am all right.

Hon. Members

Withdraw!

Mr Speaker

Order. What I will say is that I think the Leader of the Opposition used the word “dishonest”, and I do not consider that appropriate. [Hon. Members: “Breaking the rules!”] We do not want to talk about breaking rules, do we? I do not think this is a good time to discuss that.

I am sure that if the Leader of the Opposition withdraws that word and works around it, he will be able—given the knowledge he has gained over many, many years—to use appropriate words that are in keeping with the good, temperate language of this House.

Keir Starmer

I respect that ruling from the Chair, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister knows what he is. As I was saying, he drags everyone else down with him. The more people debase themselves, parroting his absurd defences, the more the public will believe that all politicians are the same, all as bad as each other—and that suits this Prime Minister just fine.

Some Conservative Members seem oblivious to the Prime Minister’s game. Some know what he is up to but are too weak to act, while others are gleefully playing the part that the Prime Minister cast for them. A Minister said on the radio this morning, “It is the same as a speeding ticket.” No, it is not. No one has ever broken down in tears because they could not drive faster than 20 miles an hour outside a school. Do not insult the public with this nonsense!

As it happens, however, the last Minister who got a speeding ticket, and then lied about it, ended up in prison. I know, because I prosecuted him.

Last week, we were treated to a grotesque spectacle: one of the Prime Minister’s loyal supporters accusing teachers and nurses of drinking in the staff room during lockdown. Conservative Members can associate themselves with that if they want, but those of us who take pride in our NHS workers, our teachers, and every other key worker who got us through those dark days will never forget their contempt.

Plenty of people did not agree with every rule that the Prime Minister wrote, but they followed them none the less, because in this country we respect others. We put the greater good above narrow self-interest, and we understand that the rules apply to all of us. This morning I spoke to John Robinson, a constituent of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), and I want to tell the House his story.

When his wife died of covid, John and his family obeyed the Prime Minister’s rules. He did not see her in hospital; he did not hold her hand as she died. Their daughters and grandchildren drove 100 miles up the motorway, clutching a letter from the funeral director in case they were questioned by the police.

They did not have a service in church, and John’s son-in-law stayed away because he would have been the forbidden seventh mourner. Does the Prime Minister not realise that John would have given the world to hold his dying wife’s hand, even if it was just for nine minutes? But he did not, because he followed the Prime Minister’s rules—rules that we now know the Prime Minister blithely, repeatedly and deliberately ignored. After months of insulting excuses, today’s half-hearted apology will never be enough for John Robinson. If the Prime Minister had any respect for John, and the millions like him who sacrificed everything to follow the rules, he would resign. But he will not, because he does not respect John, and he does not respect the sacrifice of the British public. He is a man without shame.

Looking past the hon. Member for Lichfield and the nodding dogs in the Cabinet, there are many decent hon. Members on the Conservative Benches who do respect John Robinson and do respect the British public. They know the damage that the Prime Minister is doing; they know that things cannot go on as they are; and they know that it is their responsibility to bring an end to this shameful chapter. Today I urge them once again not to follow in the slipstream of an out-of-touch, out-of-control Prime Minister. I urge them to put their conscience, their country and John Robinson first; to remove the Prime Minister from office; to bring decency, honesty and integrity back into our politics; and to stop the denigration of everything that this country stands for.