4 min read19 July
Keir Starmer said the row over the self-isolation pilot showed the government were adopting “one rule for them, another rule for everyone else”.
The Labour leader has called for more information about when the PM was told to self-isolate as he claimed Downing Street’s account was “inconsistent”.
Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had announced on Sunday morning they would make use of a limited pilot scheme which allowed those contacted by NHS test and trace to avoid the mandatory self-isolation period by taking daily tests.
The pair had been told to self-isolate after meetings with health secretary Sajid Javid on Friday who later tested positive for the virus.
But they were forced to u-turn just hours later following a major public backlash over the plans, with Johnson claiming he had only “looked at” the possibility of using the scheme.
Speaking on Monday, Starmer said the pair had only dumped their plans because they were “busted” and raised concerns about the decision to travel to his official residence in Chequers after the meeting with Javid.
“The Government needs to publish all the details of how ministers deemed themselves eligible for this scheme at a time when the public have not had the same access to it,” he said.
“And there are more questions arising from the Prime Minister isolating at Chequers. Did Boris Johnson travel to his country retreat after Sajid Javid first had symptoms?
“You would have thought given the amount of money spent refurbishing Downing Street he would have been happy staying there as the Chancellor has. “
He added: “But we know the Prime Minister likes to look for a loophole. We need to know when the Prime Minister was contacted and where he was.”
But the Prime Minister’s spokesperson insisted the “correct process” had been followed as he claimed Johnson had travelled to Chequers on Friday, the day before Javid took his rapid test which suggested he was infected.
“My understanding on this is the PM travelled to Chequers on Friday, and the health and care secretary took his test on Saturday,” they said.
“The correct process has been followed. He was contacted by NHS Test and Trace over the weekend. He has isolated and obviously has not travelled subsequently because you are not allowed to travel across the country.”
The spokesperson revealed the health secretary had not received his confirmatory PCR test result until Sunday morning, almost two days after the PM left Downing Street.
Meanwhile, Starmer questioned why the PM and Chancellor had been “miraculously” selected for the pilot, which is reportedly only applied to people on a case-by-case basis, saying it was a further example of “chaos, confusion and cronyism at the heart” of government.
“It is possible to forgive an unprecedented situation, if Ministers’ hearts were in the right place and they were trying their best,” he said.
“But we have seen chaos, confusion and cronyism at the heart of this government. We had yet another example this weekend when the Prime Minister and Chancellor claimed they had miraculously been selected for a trial so that they could avoid isolation.
“Isolation that hundreds of thousands of the rest of us have dutifully taken.”
“The Tories’ instincts were revealed yet again: one rule for them, and another for everyone else. With family events cancelled, businesses having to close and workers having to go without pay, Johnson and Sunak’s attempts to dodge isolation were crass and insensitive.”
He added: “At a time when we need to maintain confidence in self isolation, parents, workers and businesses will be wondering what on earth is going on in Downing Street. That’s why I’ve written to the Prime Minister, because there are still far too many unanswered questions.
“The Prime Minister claims he “did look briefly at the idea” of taking part in the pilot scheme. This rides a coach and horses through the claim that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak had been magically selected for this trial.
“And it is completely inconsistent with a Downing Street press release saying they were “participating” in the pilot.”
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