Tory outrage as Sir Keir Starmer given prime time BBC slot to slams Govt response to coronavirus surge

SIR Keir Starmer has provoked the fury of Tory MPs after the BBC gave him a prime time telly slot to attack Boris Johnson's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Conservative politicians accused the Labour leader of using his national address on the BBC for an unnecessary political attack.

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Tory MPs last night hit out at Sir Keir for the scathing speech delivered yesterday evening, in which he said of the PM: "I don't think he has got the right character for this and I don't think he is up to it."

He also said the return of the virus was "not an act of God" but a "failure of the Government".

They claimed the PM's address to the nation on Tuesday evening did not warrant an official response from the Opposition leader – as it wasn't party political and was a message to update the nation.

Tory MP for North West Durham Richard Holden blasted: "This is a completely bonkers BBC decision that flies in the face of all logic.

"When the Prime Minister speaks as Prime Minister, he speaks as the leader of our country, not for a party."

This is a completely bonkers BBC decision that flies in the face of all logic

MP Tom Hunt added: "This is clearly inappropriate. Politics aside, Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister during a global pandemic.

"It is clearly appropriate for the figure who holds this office to be able to communicate with the public."

He continued: "How does Starmer being given a platform to launch a political attack at this stage help the nation and the public?

"This does raise questions about the BBC and their impartiality. A lot of people will see this as very peculiar."

A BBC spokesman defended the corporation's decision to broadcast Starmer's speech on the grounds that responses to a national address from the opposition were historically allowed.

They said: "Under the BBC Charter and Agreement, the Government can require the BBC to transmit a ministerial broadcast.

"In those circumstances, under its Editorial Guidelines, the BBC has to consider whether to offer other parties the opportunity to respond.

"There has been a response on every occasion since the Suez crisis, bar one."

A spokesperson for the PM said of the BBC's decision: "That's entirely a matter for the BBC.2


In a wide ranging speech, Sir Keir said that he supported new measures introduced by Downing Street to curb a worrying rise in infections – but said the return to restrictions represented was a "failure of government".

He said: "The return of this virus, and the return of restrictions, are not an act of God. They're a failure of Government.

"The British people have done everything asked of them. But I'm afraid the Government has not."

The Labour leader also took aim at the government's test-and-trace system, and claimed Britain needed a "Plan B" for the economy.

It comes after Boris Johnson told the nation in a live address on Tuesday night to "pull together" as lockdown restrictions were tightened amid a sharp rise in infections.

He warned Brits that "your cough could be someone else's death knell" ahead of the "difficult" winter months.

Under new measures, pubs and hospitality venues are subject to a 10pm curfew while facemasks will be made compulsory for staff in hospitality and close contact places.



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