'Three U-turns in a month': Starmer suggests swapping places with Johnson at PMQs after criticising Covid-19 response

Sir Keir Starmer has criticised Boris Johnson for making "three U-turns in a month", pointing to recent policy changes on health charges, MPs voting, and summer food vouchers.

The Labour leader was full of vigour in his attacks on the government at PMQs and even suggested he and the prime minister swap places.

Sir Keir chose child poverty and support for local authorities during the coronavirus lockdown as his main topics, however Boris Johnson often hit back with questions of his own.

He welcomed the government's U-turn on summer meals for disadvantaged children in England - a policy change forced by Manchester United's Marcus Rashford - but said it was “just one step” to reducing child poverty.

The former lawyer cited a government commissioned report which said there are "600,000 more children living in relative poverty than in 2012".

The prime minister said he was "proud" to be providing the "Covid summer food package to some of the poorest families in this country" but said his opposite number was wrong about child poverty.

“But I must say that he is completely wrong in what he says about poverty.

"Absolute poverty, relative poverty, have both declined under this government.

“There are hundreds of thousands, I think 400,000, fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010.”

As Sir Keir repeatedly asked questions on child poverty, the prime minister repeatedly fired back, asking Sir Keir to tell the public "schools are safe".

"This is turning into opposition questions," Sir Keir remarked, adding: "If the prime minister wants to swap places I’m very happy we could do it now."

With a slip of the tongue, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle subsequently referred to the Labour leader as "prime minister".

Mr Johnson insisted he wants to "tackle deprivation" and said one of the best ways to help the poorest children in the country “would be to encourage all kids who can go back to school to go back to school now because their schools are safe”.

He demanded Sir Keir say schools are safe, but said "the unions won’t let him say the truth".

"A great ox has stood upon his tongue," he added.

Sir Keir Starmer said the PM is an “expert” in U-turns with three in the space of a month.

During PMQs, Sir Keir said: “The government has had three U-turns in the last month.

"First we had immigration health charges, then we had MPs voting and then we had free school meals.”

He then asked whether the government has “kept its promise” made by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick on March 26 to do “whatever it takes” to support local authorities in their Covid-19 response.

Mr Johnson replied: “We have put £3.2 billion extra into local government to tackle coronavirus.”

Starmer warned council leaders face a choice between “cutting core services or facing bankruptcy”.

“That will drive up poverty, something the Prime Minister says he doesn’t intend to do.

"Local councils have done everything asked of them in this crisis, the Government hasn’t.

"Will the Prime Minister take responsibility and actually do something?”

  • Watch PMQs in full:

Mr Johnson said he had outlined support for local government, adding the country can be “very proud” of its investments and the response of local government officials.

He added: “There are some councils, particularly Labour councils alas, that are not opening their schools when they could be opening them.

“And I say to him, I hope for the last time, now is the moment when he can say to those Labour councillors that it is safe for kids to go back to reception, to year one, to year six, to early years. Will he now say it?”

Sir Keir replied: “Every week the Prime Minister seems to complain that I ask him questions at Prime Minister’s Questions. If he wants to swap place, so be it.”