Partygate scandal 'damaging union' as Sir Keir Starmer says 'bring it on' to election calls

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said Boris Johnson is damaging the union and that the party is ready to fight a general election regardless of who leads the Conservative party.

It comes as the leader of Scottish Labour, Anas Sarwar, labelled Boris Johnson a “charlatan” and a “liar”.

The Labour leader was in Glasgow on Friday to visit Forge Market alongside his Scottish counterpart as the Partygate scandal rumbles on.

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On Friday morning, the Metropolitan Police said they had asked the Cabinet Office to make “minimal reference” to events it is investigating as part of the police investigation, potentially delaying the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray for days or even weeks.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar during a visit to Forge Market in Glasgow on Friday

Sir Keir’s comments also follow the leader of the house, Jacob Rees-Mogg, warning on Newsnight earlier this week that change of Conservative leader should trigger a general election.

Mr Rees-Mogg argued that the UK has moved to a more “presidential” system of electoral mandates, despite centuries of first past the post, constituency-based representation and government.

The Conservative politician had told the BBC programme: “It is my view that we have moved, for better or worse, to essentially a presidential system and that therefore the mandate is personal rather than entirely party, and that any prime minister would be very well advised to seek a fresh mandate.”

Asked to comment on this by broadcasters in Glasgow, the Labour leader said he and his party would happily fight an election now.

He said: “I don’t mind who leads the Conservative Party or who is the prime minister, we’ll go up against them and make the powerful case against them.

“And the sooner they call a general election the better, as far as I’m concerned.”

Sir Keir Starmer added that he believed the Government had been “paralysed” by “partygate” as he called for the report and the results of the police inquiry 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.

Calling for the Sue Gray report to be published with “no redactions, no edits, no bits left out”, Sir Keir added that the ongoing scandals surrounding the Prime Minister is damaging the United Kingdom and the union, with every day he remains as Prime Minister increasing support for Scottish independence.

He 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.”

The Labour leader also defended his party’s standing and progress tackling the dominance of the SNP, despite the latest poll showing little additional support for Scottish Labour despite falls in support for the Scottish Conservatives.

He said: “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.”

Speaking at the same event, Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said the UK deserves better than “charlatan”, Boris Johnson.

He 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.”

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