Making his conference speech in Doncaster, South Yorkshire yesterday, the Labour leader attacked Boris Johnson for either “wishing away” problems or “pretending they don’t exist”.
Sir Keir claimed the coronavirus crisis had exposed the “character” of the Prime Minister, and suggested even Mr Johnson’s own MPs were realising he was not good enough.
He said: “He’s just not serious. He’s just not up to the job. Whenever he encounters a problem, Johnson responds either by wishing it away or by lashing out.
“He kept wishing away the problems with testing, pretending they didn’t exist. He wished away the problems with the Irish border. Then, when he finally realised what he’d signed up to, he lashed out and decided to break international law.”
The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service also drew parallels between his career before politics with that of Mr Johnson.
He said: “While Boris Johnson was writing flippant columns about bendy bananas, I was defending victims and prosecuting terrorists.
“While he was being sacked by a newspaper for making up quotes, I was fighting for justice and the rule of law.” In a less-than-subtle reference to the northern seats plundered by the Tories at the last election, Sir Keir made his speech in front of a red wall.
It was delivered to a near-empty room because of social distancing restrictions, and was greeted with silence instead of the usual cheers and applause of conference season. Sir Keir also issued a fiery defence of the Union, vowing to make Labour the party of the whole United Kingdom.
He said: “We must make the case much more persuasively that we achieve more together than we do alone.
“To stop the Nationalists ripping our country apart by design and to stop the Tories dismantling it by neglect.”
The Labour leader also warned that forcing the UK into a second national lockdown was a failure of leadership.
He added: “Instead of getting a grip, the government has lost control.
“The arrogance of this government makes me so angry. A government minister telling parents to “stop carping” when they can’t get a test for their sick child angers us all.”
The Labour leader was introduced at the virtual party conference by Jewish former MP Ruth Smeeth, an outspoken critic of Jeremy Corbyn who lost her seat in December.
Sir Keir also promised “brutal honesty”, and admitted his party got it wrong after Mr Corbyn oversaw Labour’s worst election result since 1935.
His comments came during an address that also saw him admit Labour “deserved to lose” the last election.
He explained: “You don’t look at the electorate and ask them: ‘what were you thinking?’”