Sunday shows: Partygate is distracting from cost-of-living crisis, Starmer says – LabourList

Sunday Morning

Labour leader Keir Starmer told viewers that Boris Johnson is making “statements about partygate when he should be coming to make statements about the cost of living”, and insisted that he and the Labour Party want to focus on rising bills and household costs. He also said this morning that it is “very difficult” to envisage the Labour whip being returned to Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Asked which issue – ‘partygate’ or the cost-of-living crisis – is more important to the country right now: “For many, many people it’s the cost of living.”
  • Asked why Labour spent last week talking about Boris Johnson receiving a fine for breaching Covid rules: “We only had a statement on Tuesday in the House of Commons from the Prime Minister because he received a fine. I didn’t initiate that statement… I want to talk about the cost-of-living crisis.”
  • He added: “If you or anybody else thinks I’m not bothered by standards in public life… I’m sorry, I’m not going to shy away from that. But, yeah, this morning what we’re calling for is an emergency budget to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.”
  • On claims made by Tory ministers that the fines issued to Johnson and Rishi Sunak are equivalent to speeding fines: “Nobody, in all my days, has ever broken down in front of me in tears because they couldn’t go 35 in a 30mph zone.”
  • Put to Starmer that he broke the Covid public health restrictions: “I don’t accept that. I think last time I was on your show or the one before, you put the same question to me seven times… The police looked into it, that’s the end of it. I’ve got nothing to add. There’s no equivalence.”
  • On the implications of the partygate row: “[Johnson is] coming to the House of Commons to make statements about partygate when he should be coming to make statements about the cost of living. I would rather the Prime Minister brought forward, or the Chancellor brought forward, an emergency budget.”
  • On the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda: “When you’ve got the archbishop of Canterbury and Theresa May telling you your plans are wrong, then I think the government should stop and think again.”
  • Asked whether the proposal is “morally wrong”: “I do think it’s unethical. I also think it’s unworkable and it’s going to cost a fortune. I also can’t help feeling, I’m afraid, that there’s a bit of distraction tactics in this to stop everybody talking about the wrongdoing of the Prime Minister and the cost-of-living crisis.”
  • Asked what Labour would do: “I would like to see – in addition to the international operation to take these gangs down… more support in those camps so people understand where they do have rights to go to other countries or to apply in France or somewhere else.”
  • Asked whether there should be centres in Europe where people can apply for asylum: “You could do that, of course… You could do it along the route but the best place would be the nearest place to the country that they’re fleeing from.”
  • On other schemes: “We have set up schemes for Ukraine. We’ve set up schemes for Afghanistan. I admit the government was behind the curve here and did it in the heat of the moment too slow but I’m sorry I don’t accept the proposition that it’s simply not possible to have a better system than the one that we’ve got.”
  • On people traffickers: “If the Home Secretary came up with a strong plan to crack down on these gangs across the world then we would support it.”
  • On Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on NATO while Labour leader: “The position of Jeremy Corbyn on NATO and my position are very, very different… When Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party, we maintained a pro-NATO position. Not least because of those of us in the party arguing for that position. So, the Labour Party’s position never changed on NATO.”
  • Asked whether he was wrong to campaign for Corbyn: “I was right to argue through those years and in the two years or so that I’ve been leader about the importance of NATO… The Labour Party position at the last election was pro-NATO, as it was the election before and the election before that. And I don’t think I could myself be clearer than I have been about our support for NATO.”
  • Asked whether Corbyn will be a Labour MP again: “It’s very difficult to see how that situation can now be resolved. He lost the whip because of his response to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in relation to antisemitism. I made it very clear – first thing I said as Labour Party leader [was] that I was going to tear out antisemitism by its roots in our party. I’ve also made it clear that our position in the Labour Party is not to accept the false equivalence between Russian aggression and the acts of NATO.”

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Treasury minister Tulip Siddiq outlined to viewers what Labour is calling for in its demand for an emergency budget to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. She also called for an independent panel to investigate allegations of abuse in parliament following The Times story that three ministers are facing sexual misconduct claims.

  • On what Labour is calling for in an emergency budget: “We’re saying that we should tax oil and gas producers’ profits and we should make sure we take around £600 off energy bills… We have to give a tax break to businesses, especially to [small- and medium-sized enterprises]… We’ve got to make sure we halt the National Insurance rise… We have to have a rapid programme, a proper programme, to look into how we insulate homes.”
  • Asked whether Labour’s call for an emergency budget is an “admission” that voters want to move on from discussing partygate: “We want to talk about the cost-of-living crisis, of course we do, because it’s such a real threat to people.”
  • On the government’s handling of the return of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: “We know for a fact there were a few missed opportunities… So I asked Tom Tugendhat and I wrote to him and said, look, you’ve got to conduct an inquiry into this not just because of Nazanin but to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
  • Asked whether a Labour government would be happy working with far-right French President candidate Marine Le Pen: “I hope that is a situation that doesn’t arise, but if it does come I suppose what we have to do is do the best we can – as in, the government worked with Trump when he was elected… As a responsible government, you have to work with any government.”
  • On reports Tory MPs likened Angela Rayner to a Basic Instinct character: “I feel like I can’t even read and look at this front page. That’s why I was looking away, because I think the story is so disgraceful – and I actually am quite upset because I heard what Oliver Dowden said and I think he should have been stronger in condemning this.”
  • She added: “Angela Rayner is an MP who got elected on merit – to talk about the fact that she’s using her legs or her posture to manipulate the Prime Minister is ridiculous. I’m really upset about it.”
  • On abuse allegations: “There has to be an independent review, there has to be an independent panel that looks into this. If there are people from my party, there should be zero tolerance to this. If it’s people from the government, it should be zero tolerance.”
  • On partygate: “What kind of message does that send out to the public? We’re meant to be the authority that makes legislation. People hate politicians anyway and they’re losing further faith in us. Next time there’s a pandemic or something like this happens, the public won’t listen.”

Labour peer and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy QC explained her role in a taskforce seeking to secure convictions for war crimes in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, saying that it would be “difficult” to prosecute Vladimir Putin.

  • On the legal taskforce: “This taskforce was set up at the behest of the prosecutor general who wanted to have some advice from lawyers beyond Ukraine… to have that input and discussion about what is most likely to be successful.”
  • On the UN: “Five nations basically have the voting rights on anything substantial, like putting something before the International Court of Justice and Russia is one of those countries, as is China. And both of those nations often exercise their veto to prevent actions being taken against, as they would see it, a sovereign nation.”
  • On Russia: “We’re not expecting that Russia’s going to give agreement to any kind of inquiry or tribunal or court, and so in those circumstances one is presented with serious problems.”
  • On alternative routes: “The International Criminal Court has already embarked upon an investigation and that was voted for by a majority of the general council of the UN, which can do that on a majority… That investigation is going on, we are assisting in that.”
  • She added: “The council of Europe could, for example, set up some sort of forum as it did for Kosovo. A forum was set up for Sierra Leone… it wasn’t set up in the traditional way, it wasn’t at the International Court of Justice… So we’re looking at all the other alternatives as to how you can bring Russia to justice.”
  • On the implications for Ukraine and the ongoing conflict: “The big question just now for Ukraine is they would like something positive, for Russia to be put on the back foot by being told categorically that there is going to be a case brought in an international forum of some kind.”
  • On rape as a weapon of war: “A change is taking place internationally in the recognition of rape as a weapon of war, and what that means is not that an instruction is given from the top to go out there and rape citizens… but it’s about this sort of tacit permission that is given.”
  • Asked how easy it would be to prosecute Vladimir Putin for a war crime: “That is more difficult, I mean until you have victory by Ukraine and the aftermath of that it’s very difficult to bring leaders to justice… It has been possible with other leaders… We’re looking carefully at what the steps would have to be, but we’re a long way from that.”

Oliver Dowden rejected reports that Tory MPs accused Rayner of a Basic Instinct ‘ploy’ to distract Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions time, describing the story in the Mail on Sunday as “completely ludicrous”.

The Tory MP and party chair insisted this morning that Johnson will lead the Conservatives into the next general election but added that the local elections, taking place on May 5th, will be “challenging” for his party.

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