Keir Starmer cites death of leukaemia sufferer Ollie Bibby to attack PM over Hancock Covid rule-break scandal

Political Reporter Shehab Khan reports on why Boris Johnson can't yet move on from the Hancock scandal

Sir Keir Starmer raised the case of a 27-year-old who died of leukaemia the day before Matt Hancock was pictured kissing his aide in breach of Covid guidance.

Ollie Bibby "died with his friends and family unable to spend time with him", Sir Keir said at Prime Minister's Questions.

The Labour leader criticised Boris Johnson for his handling of the scandal with the prime minister defending his actions by pointing to the "fast" replacement of Mr Hancock.

Sir Keir said Ollie's family felt aggrieved: "When he was in hospital, he begged to see his family, but following the rules, only one member of his family was allowed to see him.

"His mum said ‘I'm livid, we did everything we were told to do, and the man who made the rules didn’t.'"

Ollie, from Essex, died in UCL Hospital in London on May 5 - the day before the pictures of Mr Hancock were captured.

Mr Johnson said he shared the "grief and the pain for Ollie and his family, and millions across the country who have endured the privations this country has been through in order to get the coronavirus pandemic under control".

He added: "Instead of focusing on stuff going on within the Westminster bubble we are focusing on rolling out that vaccine."

Read analysis of PMQs from our Political Editor Robert Peston:

Is it the instincts of our leaders or their actions that matter to us?

In criticising Boris Johnson for instructing Downing Street on Friday to say he “accepts the apology [from Matt Hancock] and considers the matter closed”, Sir Keir Starmer hopes we care most about the PM’s instinctive reaction. 

Mr Johnson argues at PMQs that accepting Matt Hancock’s resignation on Saturday evening shows he did the right thing, and that's what matters to us.

Who is right?

And after Sir Keir raised the tragic case of Ollie Bibby, who died aged 27 separated by social distancing rules from most of his family, was Mr Johnson right to tell Sir Keir that the delay in Hancock’s departure is a “Westminster bubble issue”?

Deeds or words? Actions or instincts? What matters?

Watch Boris Johnson face MPs at Prime Minister's Questions.

The Labour leader said the incident showed: "It’s one rule for them and another rule for everybody else.”

The prime minister defended his handling of the issue, saying a new Health Secretary was in place a day after the story emerged.

Mr Johnson said: "Given we have a pandemic, I think to move from one Health Secretary to the next with that speed was fast."

Sir Keir said that answer was "ridiculous" and added the prime minister was the "only person who looked at that photo on Friday morning and thought the Health Secretary shouldn’t be sacked immediately".

Mr Johnson repeated that a new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, was now in place saying his government "moved at a positively lightning speed in comparison to the Honourable Gentlemen opposite who spent three days trying and failing to sack his deputy leader who he then promoted".

Concluding, Sir Keir told the Commons: “There’s a pattern here. When Dominic Cummings broke the rules by driving to Barnard Castle, the Prime Minister backed him. When the Housing Secretary unlawfully approved a billion pound property deal for a Tory donor, the Prime Minister backed him.

“When the Home Secretary broke the ministerial code, the Prime Minister backed her. And when the Health Secretary broke Covid rules, the Prime Minister tried and wanted to back him too.

“Every time it’s the same old story. Isn’t it the case that while the British people are doing everything asked of them, it’s one rule for them and another rule for everybody else?”

Boris Johnson reiterated Matt Hancock was replaced the day after the story emerged, adding: “We’re getting on with our agenda of vaccinating the population of this country through the energy and the application of the new Secretary of State for Health and the Department of Health.”

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