Keir Starmer refuses to criticise Boris Johnson's latest coronavirus rules and says he supports all measures

  • Video report by ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston

Sir Keir Starmer has told ITV News he supports the prime minister in his latest coronavirus restrictions - and any future measures - while declining to say if he thinks they should have been even more stringent.

The Labour leader, in an interview with Robert Peston, repeatedly criticised the government's testing regime and economic support package, but he refused to attack the new rules.

He praised Boris Johnson for implementing a 10pm curfew on hospitality venues but many have questioned why indoor household visits have not been banned, as they have in Scotland.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the new measures have not "gone anywhere near far enough".

But Sir Keir, who was asked three times whether he thinks the new rules should have gone further, said: "We'll wait and see, we agreed with the prime minister, we support the measures he's put in place.

"My concern with what the prime minister's done is that at the very time we need testing to be exactly where it needs to be, it's near collapsed and while we're phasing in health measures we're phasing out economic support."

He added: "We've supported the government because when it comes to things like restrictions, communication is absolutely key and therefore I think it's right that there's one communication that's coming out on a cross party basis."

His public support for the government stopped with coronavirus measures, as he went on to attack the progress of Brexit negotiations, which appear to have stalled due to disagreements on fisheries and state aid.

The Labour leader said there are "only a few outstanding issues" blocking a deal, adding how he thinks "they're quite capable of being resolved".

He urged the prime minister to not break the Withdrawal Agreement which was signed with the EU in October 2019 - a move which would break international law.

The EU has said it will not be able to reach a free trade deal with the UK if the agreement is broken.

Sir Keir said: "If the prime minister got on with negotiating instead of reopening old wounds, we'd have every chance of getting a deal done in good time.

"The issues that are left like state aid, these are not incapable of resolution.

"The prime minister needs to sit down, resolve them, get the deal he promised and then focus what i think is upper most in everybody's mind which is dealing with pandemic."

This week was the Labour Party's annual conference, which was held in a digital format due to social distancing measures ending any hopes of an in-person event.

In his opening conference speech Sir Keir appealed to former Labour voters who abandoned the party at the 2019 general election, when Jeremy Corbyn was leader - but he did not offer up any policies he supports.

He was asked three times by Peston to reveal a policy he supports but declined, saying four years before a general election is too early to make any pledges.

He said: "We're not going to get into policy four years before the election in the middle of a pandemic when we don't quite know what's going to happen to our economy in the next 12 months."

Sir Keir spoke to Peston ahead of a televised address to the nation in response to Boris Johnson's coronavirus statement.

He will also be on the television, speaking from outside his childhood home as Labour unveils its first party political broadcast since he was elected its leader.

In the broadcast, Sir Keir will say “I love this country. I’m proud of this country, of all it has achieved and all it will go on to achieve. 

Keir Starmer gave a statement filmed outside his childhood home. Credit: Labour

“This country has given me so much. An NHS that cared for my mother for much of her life. The chance to be the first in my family to go to university, to go on into the law and to lead our Crown Prosecution Service for five years. 

“I want these opportunities to be available to everyone: in every village, town and city. In every region and nation. Whatever your age, background or ethnicity.”

Standing outside his childhood home, he will say: “Together we can make Britain the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.”