Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says an inquiry into coronavirus is 'inevitable' after UK's 'slow' response to outbreak

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has warned the UK is heading for one of the worst Covid-19 death tolls in Europe, as he complained that the government has consistently been too slow in taking the appropriate actions to limit the impact of the crisis.

An inquiry into the government's handling of coronavirus is "inevitable at the end of all this" he claimed, but said the "focus should not be on" any future probe currently, but on the next steps in the crisis.

In an interview with ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston, the Labour leader criticised the government for being "slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on protective equipment".

He said he is worried the government is now going to be "slow on an exit strategy" after repeatedly demanding one be announced to the public.

  • Starmer says the UK has been 'slow' in its response to coronavirus:

Sir Keir called for Boris Johnson to be transparent in his plans for when the lockdown will ease, saying the country needs "to know what it is".

"As far as the exit is concerned, the next phase, it is partly scientific... but it is partly political because the decisions will be political in a sense.

"Do you get your schools back into operation?

"Which bit of your economy... comes out of lockdown first?

"These aren't scientific decisions, these are political decisions and they need to be taken.

"The PM said he wanted transparency, so if he's going to have transparency let's see what the plan is, let's look at it."

Sir Keir claimed he has been successful in holding the government to account since becoming Labour leader, but said he has been careful not to try and "score a political point".

"I don't think many people want to see that," he added.

But he does believe he's "had the courage" to challenge the government "when they're going wrong, either by making mistakes or by going too slowly".

  • Starmer on a future inquiry:

He claimed his "constructive opposition" has forced the government to drive up testing and prioritise protective equipment for frontline staff.

On the UK's coronavirus-related death rate, Sir Keir said "it's a real cause for concern".

"The govenment advisors six weeks ago were saying that the hope, or what success might look like, would be to keep the tragic number below 20,000, we now know that it's already 26,000 or 27,000 and we're only halfway through.

"Therefore we run the risk of having one of the highest death rates in Europe," he added.

  • Starmer on the UK's coronavirus death rate:

Sir Keir took over from former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after a landslide victory in a leadership election in which he beat Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

He won a huge 56.2% majority, while Ms Long-Bailey got 27.6% and Ms Nandy got 16.2%.

One of his first moves was to overhaul the shadow cabinet by removing many of his predecessor's supporters from their posts.

  • Starmer says he's had 'courage' to challenge government

At the time, Robert Peston put to him that he'd "purged the Corbynistas" from Labour's top team, but Sir Keir disagreed, saying he had put together a team that "comes from all bits of the party".

At Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday Sir Keir grilled Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the UK's soaring coronavirus death toll.

He said the UK was "on track to have one of the worst death rates in Europe" and asked why care home deaths had been allowed to increase so significantly, when the government had long known the elderly were among the most vulnerable to the virus.

He was widely praised for his performance at PMQs, with social media users lauding his "methodical" and "forensic" questioning.

Sir Keir's comments followed the release of care home death figures, which suggested there had been thousands of fatalities in such facilities since the Covid-19 outbreak began.

At the government's press conference on Wednesday evening, Mr Raab said 3,811 deaths had been added to the official figure after the government included deaths which take place outside of hospitals, in places such as care homes.

The current official death toll stands at 26,097, however that figure will grow later when more statistics are announced.