In a speech at the Fabian Society think tank in London, the Labour leader accused the embattled PM of going into hiding amid the ongoing Partygate scandal, telling Tory MPs to ‘do what they need to do’ to oust him.
Mr Johnson is not expected to be seen until next week after announcing he was ‘limiting contact’ after a family member allegedly tested positive for Covid.
It comes after he was forced to apologise to Parliament this week after a bombshell email revealed how his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, had invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’ – telling guests to bring their own alcohol.
The flames were fanned following reports on Friday that No10 hosted ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic, which Mr Johnson allegedly attended and encouraged, seemingly breaking the Covid restrictions his government had set in place.
Downing Street was also forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace after it emerged parties were held in Number 10 the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral last year – which the Queen had to attend alone.
In a speech at the Fabian Society think tank in London today (pictured), the Labour leader accused the embattled PM of going into hiding amid the ongoing Partygate scandal, telling Tory MPs to ‘do what they need to do’ to oust him
Boris Johnson is not expected to be seen until next week after announcing he was ‘limiting contact’ after a family member allegedly tested positive for Covid
The furore has seen the Conservatives slump in the polls, with some suggesting they are as much as 14 points behind Labour – leading to a growing number of Tory MPs to call for Mr Johnson to resign.
While fielding questions following his speech today, Sir Keir said: ‘What we’ve now got to is a situation where you have a Prime Minister who has lost the moral authority to lead.
‘And just when you need – because we are not out of the pandemic – a Government that has that moral authority to lead, we’ve lost it with this Prime Minister.’
He added: ‘The moral authority matters of course in relation to Covid, but we’ve got other massive challenges facing this country.
‘We’ve got a Prime Minister who is absent – he is literally in hiding at the moment and unable to lead, so that’s why I’ve concluded that he has got to go.
‘And of course there is a party vantage in him going but actually it is now in the national interest that he goes, so it is very important now that the Tory Party does what it needs to do and gets rid of him.’
Sir Keir did not address allegations of hypocrisy after video footage re-emerged of him from May 2021 drinking a beer while chatting to party staff indoors – which the Labour Party claimed did not break any rules as it was taken when he and his staff had paused for dinner during a work meeting.
But when asked if he was confident that he and other Labour MPs had behaved differently to Number 10, he said: ‘Yes, absolutely.’
He added: ‘When we collectively asked the nation to act in a particular way, it was very important that we act in the same way as the rest of the nation.’
Sir Keir said the so-called Partygate allegations had impacted on the public’s mental health.
He said: ‘I think, by the way, the scandal of partgate, for want of a better word… what’s happened in recent weeks, where it has become obvious that while the vast majority of the British public were obeying the laws the Government made, the Government and the Prime Minister were partying in Downing Street.
‘I think that has added to mental health stress because so many people are now asking themselves, ‘Why on earth did I do that then, while they were doing what they were doing?’.
While fielding questions following his speech, Sir Keir said: ‘What we’ve now got to is a situation where you have a Prime Minister who has lost the moral authority to lead.’
‘So I think that, before the pandemic we had mental health issues which have got worse during the pandemic in greater ways than we’ve really understood, particularly in young people.
‘I think they are greater in work forces – I think in places like the NHS where the strain has been huge, we’ve probably got backed-up mental health problems.
‘And I think the last few weeks in relation to partygate has just made the situation worse, which is why it is so important we make those concrete offers in relation to mental health.’
Setting out his plan for NHS reform under a Labour government, the opposition leader told the conference in his speech: ‘We would guarantee mental health treatment in less than a month.
‘We’ll recruit over 8,500 more mental health professionals to support a million more people every year.
‘Every school will have specialist support, every community will have an open access mental health hub for young people.
‘Under Labour, spending on mental health will never be allowed to fall. Stress, depression and anxiety account for 18 million workdays lost every year.
‘We know that the more secure people feel about their jobs the less likely they are to suffer from stress and be absent from work, so we would expect employers to take wellbeing at work seriously.’
Sir Keir told of his ‘anger’ at the state of the NHS, and said the party would ‘make wellbeing matter as much as national economic output’.
He said: ‘It makes me angry. Angry that an important national institution is being allowed to decline.
Tory figures have criticised Sir Keir, highlighting a picture of the Labour leader from last year which appeared to show him drinking a beer while chatting to party staff indoors
‘Angry that this Government has the opportunity to do something good, but instead is doing nothing. And angry that so many people who could be helped are suffering.’
He added that a Labour government would introduce a new clean air act to tackle the ‘silent killer’ of air pollution.
He said: ‘Poor health affects our earnings, our relationships, and our sense of purpose. And its effects are measured in lower productivity and higher crime, in family breakdown and increased loneliness and depression.
‘So Labour would make wellbeing matter as much as national economic output.’
He accused the Conservatives of having made a ‘mess’ of the NHS.
He said: ‘The first task of a Labour government would be to clear up the mess that Tories have made of the NHS.
‘The last Labour government brought waiting times down from 18 months to 18 weeks. We will need to do the same again.’
He vowed that Labour will ‘invest properly to bring down waiting lists and we would start by recruiting, training and crucially retaining the staff that we need’.
He added that the party has a five-point plan for the transformation of social care.
Meanwhile, on Covid, Sir Keir said his party will set out in the coming days its plan for living with the virus.
‘As we repair and strengthen, we need to learn to live with Covid so that people can live their lives as normal, supported by a strong healthcare system,’ he said.
‘I don’t want the Government ever again to have to place tough restrictions on our lives, our livelihoods, and our liberties.
‘So I’m delighted to say that Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, will be setting out the details of our plan for living with Covid in the days to come.’
It came after he said he believed lives could have been saved by a ‘swifter’ response at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: ‘As I speak to you this morning, 150,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives.
‘I’m convinced that a swifter response by the Government could have reduced that number.’
Attacking the Conservative administration, the opposition leader said: ‘But while the Tories bicker and fight each other on Whatsapp, I want to look to the future because the NHS faces new challenges.
‘We are an ageing population – that fact was brutally exposed by a virus that hit the oldest the hardest.
‘We must devise new methods of care to help with long-term conditions, we need to think about mental as well as physical health and we need to think not just how we treat patients, but how we prevent them from falling ill in the first place.’
Elsewhere in his speech, the Labour leader blasted the decision to hike National Insurance, saying it would ‘hammer working people with an unfair tax’.
Asked whether a Labour government would repeal the National Insurance increase, due in April, he said: ‘We voted against the National Insurance rise last year because we do not think that the right way to pay for the health service, or social care for that matter, is to hammer working people with an unfair tax, particularly at the moment.’
He added: ‘We did set out the alternative which is that we would raise that money by looking to those with the broadest shoulders, and in particular we would look at people who are making their money from stocks and shares and dividends etc, as well as in the ordinary way.
‘So we would take a completely different approach, and that is the difference between us and the Tories here.
‘They’ve gone straight for a tax on working people at a time when people are already massively squeezed.’
Source: Daily Mail