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Sir Keir Starmer said the Government had been “paralysed” by the looming Sue Gray investigation and the subsequent police inquiry into “partygate” as he called for both reports to be published as soon as possible.
The Labour leader said Boris Johnson was unfit for office and the scandal about rule-breaking in Downing Street was distracting him from tackling the cost of living crisis.
He also warned that Boris Johnson was damaging the United Kingdom and the union, with every day he remains as Prime Minister increasing support for Scottish independence.
Calling for the Sue Gray report into rule-breaking parties at Downing Street to be released in full as quickly as possible, the Labour leader said he wanted it with “no redactions, no edits, no bits left out”.
Speaking on a visit to Glasgow’s the Forge Market to discuss soaring energy bills and the impending National Insurance increase, Sir Keir said: “What I want to see is Sue Gray’s report in full and the investigation finished as quickly as possible.
“Because we’re in this situation where the whole of Government is paralysed because the police are looking at what the Prime Minister was getting up to in Downing Street.
“On the one hand, you’ve got people really worried about their bills and you’ve got these investigations going on into what the Prime Minister was up to.
“He has paralysed the Government so the sooner we get both the full report and the investigation completed, the better.”
Commenting on whether he feels the Metropolitan Police were right to ask Sue Gray to make only “minimal reference” to any potentially criminal events being investigated by the force, he added: “We’ve got a criminal investigation into the behaviour of the Prime Minister and what went on in Downing Street.
“There are bound to be process issues along the way, but this is caused by one thing, and that’s the behaviour of the Prime Minister.”
Asked whether, with his legal background, he saw any issues of prejudice, Sir Keir said: “Any issues of prejudice have got to be worked through but this whole mess, this whole of paralysing of politics, is being caused by the Prime
Minister and his wrongdoing.”
He continued: “You have mixed emotions for people. People are angry they’re in grief about what what they’ve been through in the last two years while the Prime Minister is breaking the rules.
“But now there’s added frustration that while they’re struggling with their bills, we’re stuck with arguments about whether the report can be published in full but investigations can be completed.
“All because this Prime Minister is unfit for office.”
Reflecting on whether Mr Johnson was increasing support for Scottish independence, Sir Keir said: “The more that anybody sees Boris Johnson, the more they’re frustrated at the fact that, through his misbehaviour, we now have a civil service investigation and a criminal investigation into our prime minister and into what went on in Downing Street.
“That the whole of Government is paralysed and not focused on the things that in Scotland most people here talking about: the cost of living, the price hikes, the energy price hikes, their bills are going up, they’re really worried about inflation and they know that the Government’s about to whack them with more tax – their focus is completely wrong.”
He added: “Scottish Labour is making a very, very powerful argument as we come out of this pandemic.
“We’ve been through something the likes of which we’ve never seen before and what we, in the Labour Party, say is, ‘let’s harness that, let’s rebuild and reform as we come out of this’.
“Let’s not just go back to reopening the old arguments and old divisions.”
“That’s a very powerful case for Scotland and a very powerful case for the union.”
Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said: “Boris Johnson is a liar, Boris Johnson is corrupt, he’s out of touch, he’s not fit to be Prime Minister.
“Every day he sits in that chair he degrades the office of Prime Minister.
“The United Kingdom, frankly, deserves better than that charlatan.
“But the the key point to make here is we have a choice – we can either choose to continue to oppose the Tories or we can replace the Tories and only Labour can do that and we’re going to make that case over the coming weeks and months.”
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “This gets murkier by the minute. Sue Gray and the Met are in difficult positions but the sequence of events and the situation arrived at now creates the suspicion – however unfairly – that the process of inquiry is aiding Johnson at the expense of public accountability.”
Scotland’s First Minister added: “I doubt Johnson cares about damage to the reputations of others – individuals or institutions – as long as he saves his own skin. But these things matter. Rapid conclusion and full publication of the findings of inquiries surely now essential for public trust.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said later: “Labour didn’t even bother to vote in the SNP’s opposition day debate in the Commons earlier this week, which called for immediate action from the UK Tory government on the cost-of-living crisis.
“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is doing more than any other UK administration to tackle poverty, including the introduction of the game-changing Scottish child payment, which we are doubling in April.
“In the four years to 2020 we also delivered 75% more affordable homes per head of population than in both England and Wales, and delivered over nine times more social rented properties per head of population than England.”
He continued: “With the full powers over welfare, energy and the economy that come with independence, we could go much further.
“But Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar want those powers to stay at Westminster – while also remaining silent on the need for action in Wales, where poverty rates are higher than Scotland and where Labour are in government.”