Keir Starmer defends Labour’s determination to keep Boris in power

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Keir Starmer defends Labour’s determination to keep Boris in power

Keir Starmer defended Labour's determination to keep pressing the prime minister over parties in Downing Street during Covid lock-downs, saying even Conservative MPs were sick of defending the indefensible Challenged about whether he had been issued with a fixed-penalty notice FPN, along with Rishi Sunak and scores of officials.

They were found to have broken the law at that, he said. No other prime minister in the history of our country has ever broken the law. I don't think we can just pass over it. Starmer said he would not pretend that it did not matter, and that Johnson's authority to lead the country is shot through. He added: His own MPs don't want to defend him because they are sick of defending the indefensible. Johnson's leadership has been under intense pressure in recent days, with senior MPs including Mark Harper and Steve Baker calling for him to go.

The Conservatives co-chair Oliver Dowden rejected the idea that Johnson should step down, saying that there was a very strong case for him remaining in office. The prime minister has admitted to attending the gathering, described by his then principal private secretary in a leaked email as socially distanced drinks, but Johnson told MPs he believed that this was a work event. Metropolitan police have not confirmed that they have issued fines over the 20 May gathering, and are refusing to make any further public statements until after May's local elections. The Guardian has learned of a person who has been fined for attending the event.

Starmer rejected the idea that the Partygate FPNs were minor punishments similar to parking fines, telling the BBC s Sophie Raworth: "In all my days nobody has ever broken down in front of me in tears because they couldn't go 35 mph in a 30 mph zone." People have broken down in front of me, in tears, because they couldn't do what they wanted to because of the Covid rules. He said that the raw human emotion was the reason so many people felt strongly about Johnson's behaviour.

Johnson was forced into an embarrassing retreat last week after it became clear that he would not be successful in whipping his own MPs to delay an inquiry by the House of Commons privileges committee into whether he misled Parliament.

The prime minister appeared to blame opposition critics for his continued struggles, saying on a visit to India: If the opposition want to focus on this and talk about it a lot more, that is fine. Starmer rejected the idea that Labour had failed to focus on other issues, pointing out that he had called for an emergency budget to tackle the cost of living crisis.