Keir Starmer reacts to investigation by parliamentary watchdog
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Sir Keir is being investigated by Parliament’s standards commissioner to determine if he broke the MPs’ code of conduct by being late in registering his earnings, gifts and hospitality. In response to the probe, the Labour leader claimed he was innocent, telling reporters on Monday he was “absolutely confident there’s no problem here”. The probe, launched on June 8, is the second into Sir Keir’s conduct in as many months after Durham police began an investigation in May to see if he broke COVID-19 lockdown rules by drinking a beer in an MP’s office last year.
While Sir Keir’s own actions have come under scrutiny, he recently demanded that Boris Johnson resign as Prime Minister over the so-called ‘Partygate’ scandal that saw a string of lockdown-busting social events held in Downing Street.
Mr Johnson, who was fined for attending one of the parties held for his birthday, survived a confidence vote last week, although the rebellion was huge, with 148 Conservative MPs voting to remove him as Tory leader.
Despite the Tories being in a “mess”, one of the UK’s leading political minds has torn apart Sir Keir’s response to Partygate and other challenges facing the Government, such as the Brexit talks to resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Professor Martin Smith at the University of York claimed that the Labour leader risked “missing an open goal” by being too “cautious” with his comments on several issues.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “This is the difficulty of being in opposition that they have got an open goal with the Conservative Party in such a mess.
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“But they have to be very careful that they do not miss their open goal and that tends to make them incredibly cautious.
“And I think that is often the problem of Labour in opposition when it has a sensible leader.”
Professor Smith likened Sir Keir to one of his predecessors as Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, who now sits in the House of Lords.
The politician was defeated at the 1992 General Election by John Major and offered his resignation shortly after.
Professor Smith compared Mr Kinnock’s attempts to carefully remodel Labour to those of Sir Keir, who was elected as the party’s leader in 2020.
He said: “The same sort of thing happened with Kinnock, that they have to be very sensible or that they think they have to be very sensible and very cautious.
“And then that ties them up a bit, it limits what they say. It stops them being distinctive. I think that is their problem.”
The academic highlighted Sir Keir’s indecision over key issues, such as his flip-flopping on Brexit.
The Labour leader voted to Remain in the EU at the 2016 referendum on Britain’s
membership of the bloc.
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He then vowed to honour the result, but later said a second referendum should be an option, before he changed tack again, saying that the Brexit debate was “over”.
Professor Smith said: “I think it is quite interesting that Labour have taken this quite clear line that Johnson should resign.
“That he has not been honest with Parliament and the Partygate scandal undermines his position as Prime Minister.
“I think the problem for Labour is they have tied themselves in knots around the question of Brexit.
“Because they are not prepared to say anything about Brexit, for fear of offending different groups of voters.
“So, they have got themselves again in a bit of a difficult position because they are not prepared to be that clear about their strategy.”
Sir Keir made his latest intervention into the Brexit debate last week as he hit out at the Government’s plan to disapply part of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Parts of the controversial trading arrangements governing Northern Ireland are set to be scrapped under a Protocol bill unveiled by the Government on Monday.
Sir Keir said the legislation would breach international law and could negatively affect ongoing Brexit talks between the UK and the EU.
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