Boris Johnson Called “Disgraceful” After Criticising Keir Starmer For Questioning Yemen Aid Cut And Arms Sales
Boris Johnson criticised Keir Starmer for focusing on Yemen at Prime Minister's Questions today (Alamy)
Boris Johnson has been criticised taking a swipe at Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour leader questioned the government's cut to Yemen aid by half, while continuing to sell arms which could be used in the conflict.
Starmer made the humanitarian disaster in the Middle Eastern country the focus of Prime Minister’s Questions today, after the announcement this week the UK would only pledge £87million this year, down from £164million last year.
Johnson was unhappy with the line of questioning, defending his government’s record in helping the people of Yemen, and attacking Starmer for not asking “anything about the coronavirus pandemic”.
But the PM was quickly accused of being “disgraceful”, “disgusting” and “nasty” on social media by Labour MPs, while the decision not to suspend the sales of arms as “morally bankrupt”.
Starmer begun the Commons session by asking: "Does the Prime Minister agree with President Biden that the sale of arms that could be used in the war in Yemen should be suspended?"
Johnson said the UK “has scrupulously followed the consolidated guidance” on arms sales, but the Labour leader hit back saying the government lost a court case just two years ago in relation to the issue.
"The truth is the UK is increasingly isolated in selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“Despite what's happening in Yemen, despite Saudi Arabia's human rights record and the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a murder the US has concluded was approved by the Saudi Crown Prince.
"So I have to ask, what would it take for the Prime Minister to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia?"
Johnson said the British people can be "hugely proud" of the country's support for Yemen, pointing out the almost £1billion of aid in the last five years.
But after Starmer continued to question the decision to cut this year’s aid pledge in half the PM hit out, telling MPs: "He can't even address a question on the issues of the hour, he could have asked anything about the coronavirus pandemic.
“Instead he's concentrated his questions entirely to the interests of the people of Yemen and we're doing everything we can to support the people of Yemen given the constraints we face."
In response Labour MP Virendra Sharma tweeted: “Disgusting to see PM Johnson condemning care for the most vulnerable in Yemen.
“It is morally right to help them, and selfishly it supports better security for the UK.”
Fellow Labour MP Emma Lewell Buck said: “Once again this government proves their moral bankruptcy and what they really value. Sickeningly it’s always money over everything else, in this instance over life.”
Labour MP Rupa Huq tweeted: “Absolutely disgraceful that Johnson loses his rag at Keir Starmer for raising legitimate questions on arming Saudis halving aid to starving children in a warzone and pandemic.
“Broken manifesto pledge and complete opposite of ‘global Britain’ which he wont even allow MPs to vote on.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “In what possible alternative universe could it be right for PM to claim British people ‘should be very very proud’ of what UK government is doing in Yemen?
“What a shameful morally bankrupt Government. The British people deserve better than this.”
Labour’s shadow trade minister Bill Esterson said: “People in Yemen are starving in a famine. The Prime Minister is still selling arms to be used against them.
“He has cut the aid budget to Yemen by half this week. Johnson complains about Keir Starmer standing up for people starving in a famine. Nasty from Johnson.”
But the Tory MP Alex Stafford criticised Starmer’s line of questioning, saying: “Disappointing that in the midst of a pandemic, with huge health and economic shocks, Labour Leader Sir Keir does not ask a single question on these matters during PMQs nd concentrates on Yemen.
“Does he have nothing to say on the UK economy or Covid? What is the point of Labour?”