Keir Starmer says Priti Patel's position is 'untenable' amid bitter police pay row

Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks to the media, whilst on patrol with Metropolitan Police officers in central London, to hear about about Covid enforcement. Picture date: Monday January 18, 2021. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Home secretary Priti Patel's position is 'untenable', Sir Keir Starmer has said. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said Priti Patel’s position is now “untenable” after the Police Federation said it has no confidence in the home secretary.

Starmer effectively called for Boris Johnson to sack Patel amid a bitter row over police pay.

The Police Federation of England and Wales expressed no confidence in Patel after she confirmed a pay freeze for officers who earn more than £24,000 a year.

It said it was “so angry” at the government after police have spent 18 months on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

After initial PPE shortages and lack of vaccine prioritisation, the federation said the pay freeze was the “final straw”.

Asked about this on an LBC phone-in on Monday, Starmer said: “Well, I’m not surprised.

BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 15: Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a walkabout on the Comedy Carpet on Blackpool Promenade on July 15, 2021 in Blackpool, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

“I think the government has let down the police for 10 years now. It’s all very well saying they are recruiting more officers now but they stripped 21,000 out over the last 10 years. They are now gradually replacing some of those officers."

He added: “[The police]... have been through added challenges over the last 18 months. They’ve got no pay rise and feel very, very let down by the home secretary.

“So I think her position is untenable.”

Patel, meanwhile, is also facing pressure over small-boat migrant crossings over the Channel, after the number of people making the dangerous journey surpassed last year’s record with five months of 2021 left to go.

Watch: MP’s astonished reaction as Priti Patel says COVID border policy to keep out variants worked

She has also been under fire over the government’s border policy following the spread of the Delta COVID variant, first identified in India, which has driven the UK’s third wave of infections.

Starmer: Butler right to call Johnson a liar... but Speaker right to kick her out

Meanwhile, Starmer supported Labour MP Dawn Butler after she repeatedly accused Boris Johnson of lying on Thursday.

Butler was ordered to leave the House of Commons after refusing to withdraw claims that the prime minister has “lied to the House and the country over and over again” during the pandemic.

Asked about the incident on LBC, Starmer said: “I agree with what Dawn had to say. I think the prime minister is the master of untruths and half-truths, and Dawn was simply giving some examples of that.

“I think there’s a lot of people that feel that… it’s the person who’s not telling the truth rather than the person who’s calling it out that ought to be on the hotspot. So, I agree with Dawn on that.”

However, he also agreed with temporary deputy Speaker Judith Cummins for kicking Butler out.

Read more:

Have your say: Has the UK passed the peak of the third COVID wave?

COVID-19: Ministers to discuss extending testing sites to more workers to tackle 'pingdemic'

It is not considered within the boundaries of parliamentary etiquette to call another MP a liar.

Cummins ordered Butler to leave for disorderly behaviour under “standing order 43” of Commons rules.

Starmer said: “She followed the rules because Parliament doesn’t allow you to call other parliamentarians liars in the chamber, so I don’t criticise the deputy Speaker for what she did, she was following the rules. But do I support Dawn in what she said? I absolutely do.”

Watch: Dawn Butler ordered to leave House of Commons after branding Boris Johnson a liar