Boris Johnson accused of 'serial incompetence' over 'wasted summer' that 'lurched from crisis to crisis'

  • Labour leader Keir Starmer attacks government U-turns in heated PMQs exchange with Boris Johnson

  • Starmer claims PM’s “serial incompetence is “holding Britain back” and calls for Johnson to “get a grip”

  • Johnson insists country is moving forwards and criticises Starmer’s “constant sniping”

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of “serial incompetence” that is “holding Britain back”.

In the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) since Parliament resumed after the summer recess, Starmer and Johnson picked up where they left off with another bad-tempered exchange in the House of Commons.

Starmer pointed to the government’s recent U-turns – including on the A-level results crisis and face masks in schools – as he attacked the PM’s record.

“This has been a wasted summer,” Starmer said. “The government should have spent it preparing for the autumn and winter. Instead they have lurched from crisis to crisis, U-turn to U-turn.

“To correct one error, even two, might make sense. But when the government’s notched up 12 U-turns and rising [during the coronavirus pandemic], the only conclusion is serial incompetence. That serial incompetence is holding Britain back.”

Starmer called for the PM to “take responsibility and finally get a grip”.

Johnson said he took “full responsibility” for the government’s record since he became PM in July last year.

However, he said the government has succeeded in turning the tide of the coronavirus pandemic “in spite of the negativity and constant sniping” from Starmer.

Boris Johnson was accused of 'serial incompetence' by Sir Keir Starmer. (
Boris Johnson was accused of 'serial incompetence' by Sir Keir Starmer. (

“We are taking this country forward in spite of the extreme difficulties that we face,” the PM said.

Starmer sought to capitalise on last month’s A-level results crisis, in which an algorithm aimed at standardising grades resulted in 40% of students being downgraded.

This setup was later abandoned in a government U-turn, with students instead being allowed to be graded based on teacher predictions if they were higher than the algorithm’s scores.

Starmer twice asked Johnson when he first knew there was a problem with the algorithm, with Johnson not answering on both occasions.

Read more: Outraged Keir Starmer demands Boris Johnson backtracks on claim he supported 'IRA-condoning Corbyn'

The PM insisted: “We did act. The students, the pupils of this country, now do have their grades.”

It came after the chair of exam regulator Ofqual revealed the government ignored its advice for exams to be held.

Roger Taylor told MPs at the education committee on Wednesday morning that the controversial calculated grades system was the regulator’s third choice, but the one picked by Williamson.

Williamson cancelled exams in March amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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