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Keir Starmer tells Boris Johnson to ‘get back on track’ after Dominic Cummings row as he demands 24-hour coronavirus test target

The Labour leader said the country ‘cannot go on like this‘

3 min read

The Government needs to “get back on track” in the wake of a major row over whether Dominic Cummings breached lockdown rules, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader said Boris Johnson’s failure to sack the senior adviser had left him “looking untrustworthy, unprincipled” in the eyes of the public.

And he urged the Prime Minister to bring in a new 24-hour turnaround target for Covid-19 tests in a bid to “build public confidence in the Government’s approach”.

Sir Keir has previously said that he “would have sacked” Mr Cummings - who caused an uproar when it emerged he had travelled 250 miles from London to Durham to seek help with childcare during the lockdown - if he had been in Number 10.

Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt, former chancellor Sajid Javid and ex-home secretary Amber Rudd are among the latest senior Tories to criticise Mr Cummings’ actions.

And, writing in the Mirror, Sir Keir said: “Let’s begin with something Boris Johnson can’t bring himself to say but the rest of us know: Dominic Cummings broke the rules. It is as simple as that.

“His actions were an insult to the millions of people across Britain who have sacrificed so much during this pandemic.”

The Labour argued that the response from Mr Johnson, who has robustly defended Mr Cummings and on Wednesday urged MPs to “move on” from the row, meant the matter had “become a national distraction at a moment of national crisis“.

He said: “This was the week when we should have been talking about how we ease the lockdown safely. How we restart our economy, support businesses, get more children back to school.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s unwillingness or inability to do the right thing has left the Government looking untrustworthy, unprincipled.

“And worst of all they have undermined the very public health advice that is necessary to keep us all safe, just to keep one powerful aide in his job.”

And Sir Keir added: “In times like this, we need good government.

“A government that we can trust. A government that is entirely focused on saving lives.

“So, I say to the Prime Minister: we cannot go on like this. We cannot lose another week to this farce. We need to get back on track.”


Speaking on the Today programme on Thursday morning as the Government launched its new ‘Test and Trace’ system, Health Secretary Matt Hancock continued to defend Mr Cummings.

But he refused to say whether he believed what the adviser had done was “right”.

The Cabinet minister said: “My judgement is that, as has been told in great detail in public, my view is that he followed the guidelines. 

“I understand why some people don’t agree with that. But that is my view.”


Sir Keir meanwhile called on the Government to introduce a 24-hour target for people to receive Covid-19 test results, in a bid to allow the public to know “as soon as possible whether you have got this awful virus”.

Mr Johnson told MPs on the cross-party Liaison Committee on Wednesday that people in England would soon know within 24 hours whether or not they have coronavirus virus. 

But he said he had been “forbidden from announcing any more targets and deadlines".

Sir Keir said: “No one should have to wait longer than is necessary for a test result. 

“That’s why I am calling on the Prime Minister to introduce a ‘Covid Test Guarantee.’

“A double-lock that no one will have to wait more than 24 hours to receive a test and then to receive the results.

“This will not only build public confidence in the Government’s approach, but it will also ensure we have a system in place that is putting people’s livelihoods first.”

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