Not 'up to the job': Labour leader renews criticism of UK PM

·2-min read

LONDON (Reuters) - British Labour leader Keir Starmer criticised Boris Johnson on Monday for repeatedly failing to take quick decisions to fight the novel coronavirus and called on the prime minister to do more to relieve the financial burden on people.

With Britain suffering from one of the highest rates of COVID deaths in the world and struggling to reduce a spiralling increase in the number of cases, Starmer renewed his criticism of Johnson by saying he "simply isn't up to the job".

The British government has warned that hospitals could soon struggle to treat the rising number of cases if people do not follow the restrictions, a message Starmer also took up by calling on everyone "to come together".

"The indecision and delays of the prime minister cost lives and they cost people's jobs," Starmer said in a speech.

"The British people will forgive many things. They know the pandemic is difficult. But they also know serial incompetence when they see it – and they know when a prime minister simply isn't up to the job."

A spokesman for Johnson rejected the criticism, saying the prime minister had taken "quick and decisive" action.

Johnson has been castigated from all sides over the spread of coronavirus, with even some in his governing Conservative Party taking aim at his seeming reluctance to introduce tougher measures quickly to curb a surge in infections.

Starmer also said he wanted the government to protect more people's money as a new lockdown bites by stopping council tax rises, preventing any cut to welfare payments, extending a ban on evictions and by handing key workers a pay rise.

But he backed the government's vaccine programme, which ministers want to offer people in the four highest risk levels, including those over 70, the most clinically vulnerable and frontline health workers, the shots by Feb. 15.

"I hope they do. Let's hold them to that, and let's help them with that," Starmer said. "But then we must deliver even more and double that target in February."

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Michael Holden)