Keir Starmer urged to ‘accelerate’ efforts as anger grows over Boris’ ‘toxic’ scandal
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership is facing its most serious threat yet after an email from his private secretary inviting more than 100 people to a “bring your own booze” party in the garden of Downing Street during a coronavirus lockdown in the UK emerged. The incident, which has been dubbed “a scandal too many for Johnson”, could hand Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer the tools to finally oust Mr Johnson.
The email from Martin Reynolds to Downing Street staff leaked by ITV on Monday has put the Prime Minister under pressure to clarify whether he was at the gathering in May 2020 or not.
Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University and Director of the Labour Academic Network, said: “I think this scandal will further boost Starmer as it provides a clear difference between them… his competence versus Johnson’s corruption.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Prof Brooks described the latest party gate episode as “a clear strength for Starmer”.
If corroborated by an internal inquiry, the BYOB gathering is set to be the most damaging event yet for the future of Mr Johnson’s government.
Polls have already shown what could be regarded as an obvious shift. The Tories are falling behind Labour, and for the first time in a year, it has been so for over a month.
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If Sir Keir can capitalise on the trouble, the results could be “absolutely fatal to Johnson”, Prof Brooks said.
He added: “He and his team need to accelerate their strengths on competence and compassion in the days and weeks ahead.
“The Prime Minister is past the point that his behaviour is seen as toxic, but where Starmer is viewed increasingly positively in his own right.”
Speaking of “a desire to bring the country together” as he welcomed the new year, Sir Keir last week told people in Birmingham he was ready to tackle some of the UK’s most urgent challenges, including “repairing after the pandemic, combating the climate crisis, and making Brexit work”.
He added: “I believe that the best still lies ahead for this country. But only if we have the courage to create a new Britain – a country in which you and your family get the security, prosperity and respect you deserve.”
In the runup to the next election, he eagerly presented his team as a feasible alternative to the Conservative Party, and he has not held back in sharing his thoughts on the latest accusations of illegal gatherings in the heart of Government.
The leader of the opposition said on Monday: “Boris Johnson, your deflections and distractions are absurd.
“Not only did you know about the parties in Downing Street, you attended them.
“Stop lying to the British public. It’s time to finally come clean.”
Prof Brooks stated he cannot see Mr Johnson “getting out of this” and claimed: “Tories are consistently behind Labour in the polls, and 16 points behind in ‘Red Wall’ seats that the Tories won to create their majority.
“All of this is now up in smoke.”
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The poll the professor referred to, conducted by Deltapoll, surveyed 57 key “red wall” constituencies in its traditional Labour heartlands. They are viewed as vital to winning back access to No 10.
The results show that, if translated into seats, Mr Johnson could lose more than 100 and a lack of majority would offer Sir Keir the chance to at last become prime minister.
However, the same poll gave Sir Keir a negative score of -6 in his general performance.
Though not as low as Mr Johnson’s, of -28, it is unclear whether Sir Keir has what it takes to help Labour secure an overall majority, meaning it might be left with no choice but to strike a deal with the Liberal Democrats or the SNP to gain the keys to Government.
Last month, when asked about the claims of Downing Street parties, Mr Johnson told parliament all Covid guidance had been followed, no rules had been broken and no party had taken place in Downing Street.
Now, if attendance by Mr Johnson to any of the parties under investigation by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant in charge of the inquiry, is confirmed, even Tories are expected to turn their backs to the Prime minister.
Conservative backbencher Nigel Mills said at BBC News on Tuesday: “It is utterly untenable, we have seen people resign for far less than that.
“If the Prime Minister knowingly attended a party, I can’t see how he can survive having accepted resignations for far less.”
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