Keir Starmer accuses Government of telling people to ‘eff off’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday October 25, 2023.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday October 25, 2023.

The Government has told the British people to “eff off”, Sir Keir Starmer has claimed – and he wants voters to have the chance to return the compliment at a general election.

The Labour leader suggested Andrew Cooper, the defeated Tory Tamworth by-election candidate, had been following Government policy when he was “throwing expletives at struggling families” in a now-deleted social media post.

As the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed two new Labour MPs to the Commons following Tory defeat in the polls, he joked that Alistair Strathern, the new member for Mid Bedfordshire, might “actually support me a little bit more than the last one”, in reference to Nadine Dorries.

Mr Sunak’s comments came after Labour leader Sir Keir told the Commons: “Can I start by welcoming the new member for Mid Bedfordshire (Mr Strathern)? The first Labour MP ever to represent those beautiful towns and villages. He defied the odds of history and of course the fantasy Lib Dem bar charts.

“Can I also welcome the new member for Tamworth (Sarah Edwards)? She will be a powerful representative for her constituents.

“Is the Prime Minister as relieved as I am that those constituents are not burdened with his defeated candidate (Mr Cooper), who told them – don’t worry Mr Speaker, I am going to sanitise this – to ‘eff off if they’re struggling with the cost of living’?”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

A mock flowchart shared on Facebook by defeated candidate Mr Cooper suggested that those who are out of work, pay for “TV Sky/BT/etc”, or “have a phone contract + £30” should “f*** off” rather than seek help.

Mr Sunak replied: “Can I in fact join him in welcoming the new members to their places? After all, I suspect the new member for Mid Beds might actually support me a little bit more than the last one.”

As laughter erupted across the Commons chamber, Mr Sunak continued: “Although, I did notice that the new member said that they will be opposing new housing in their local area while the new member for Tamworth claimed that they will protect green spaces.

“I would urge them to have a word with their leader, because that’s not exactly his position – although with his track record of U-turns, who knows what his housing policy will be next week?”

Referring to Mr Sunak’s pitch to the electorate at Conservative Party conference, Sir Keir responded: “So much for being the change candidate. He can’t even distance himself from those appalling comments.

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir said the electorate was keen to ‘return the compliment’ at the ballot box (House of Commons/PA)

“But I do have to ask him… where on earth does the Prime Minister think his candidate got the idea in the first place, that throwing expletives at struggling families was his Government’s official position?”

The Prime Minister replied: “Let’s just look at the record of what this Government is doing to help those people. Paying for around half of a typical family’s energy bill over the last year, support (of) over £1,500.

“For the most vulnerable in our society receiving £900 in direct cost-of-living support, record increases in the national living wage, record increases in welfare, and this winter, pensioners to receive an extra two (hundred) or £300 alongside their winter fuel payment to help them through what we know is a tough time.

“All of that significant support funded by this Government, all of that would be put at risk by Labour’s reckless plans to borrow £28 billion.”

After raising examples of people struggling with rent, mortgages, and rising food and clothing costs, Sir Keir claimed Mr Sunak’s Government had “abandoned” them.

Tamworth by-election
Sarah Edwards is the new MP for Tamworth following Thursday’s by-election (Jacob King/PA)

He added: “The truth is, his candidate in Tamworth summed up perfectly just how his and his Tories are treating the British public. So will he just call a general election and give the British public the chance to respond, as they did in Selby, Mid Beds and Tamworth?

“They have heard the Government telling them to ‘eff off’ and they want the chance to return the compliment.”

The Prime Minister replied: “As we saw with his recent decisions on actually building new houses, politicians like him (Sir Keir) always take the easy way out. We are getting on making the right long-term decisions to change this country for the better – on net zero, on HS2, on a smoke-free generation, on education and energy security.”

In a final warning to the Labour leader, Mr Sunak added: “Contrast that to his leadership – too cautious to say anything, and hope that nobody notices.

“Let me tell him: come that general election, the British people will.”