Boris Johnson was jeered by the public during Platinum Jubilee celebrations because they are “fed up” with the Conservative government, according to his political rival.
The Prime Minister was booed by some in the crowd as he arrived with his wife, Carrie, to attend the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he “wasn’t surprised” that Johnson faced a hostile reception from some of those gathered in central London.
But Sir Keir suggested the boos were related to the Prime Minister and his administration’s “inaction” on helping people with rising bills and escalating shop prices, rather than the fallout from the so-called partygate affair.
A host of Conservative MPs have been pushing for the Prime Minister to resign in the wake of revelations about coronavirus lockdown parties being held in Downing Street, with the calls for him to go increasing since senior civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation into the rule-breaking gatherings was published last month.
A day after Gray’s findings were published, Chancellor Rishi Sunak – who, along with Johnson and his wife, was fined for attending the Prime Minister’s surprise birthday gathering in June 2020 when indoor gatherings were prohibited – announced a £21bn cost-of-living support package, including a £400 grant to all households to assist with soaring energy bills.
But Sunak’s intervention – which also included announcing a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies, a move Labour had been calling for ministers to introduce for months – was criticised for being too late amid suspicions the Government was keen to divert attention from the Gray findings.
Sir Keir, speaking to the PA news agency at the London Aquatic Centre in Stratford, said: “In many respects, I wasn’t surprised at [the reception that greeted the Johnsons].
“I think so many people across the country are fed up with the Government, particularly its inaction on the cost of living.”
Asked whether the reaction was indicative about the public’s attitude towards politics, Sir Keir replied: “A crowd will decide for itself how it wants to acknowledge and they were there to acknowledge and thank the Queen – that was absolutely in everybody who was there.
“They booed the Prime Minister, they are fed up with the Government.
“But the vast majority were there to say thank you to the Queen and in a sense reflect on what she has given to our country, which is absolutely phenomenal.”
His comments come as reports suggested the Prime Minister is due to give a speech next week in which he will announce his intention to expand the right-to-buy scheme, in a move said to be designed to emulate Margaret Thatcher’s flagship Conservative policy and appease his critics in the party.
The Times said Johnson wants 2.5 million people who rent housing association properties to have the chance to buy their homes at a discount, in a potential policy shift that was widely touted last month.
A No 10 source told PA the Government is looking at the right to buy policy, but that no date has been set for an announcement.
Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said the right-to-buy extension had first appeared in a Tory manifesto seven years ago before being “floated again” by her opposite number Michael Gove at the start of May.
The senior Labour MP said: “We need a Government with a serious plan to get money back into people’s pockets and make housing more affordable so every family can enjoy the security of a home.
“Instead we have a Government that is out of touch and out of ideas, desperately recycling old policies.”
Sir Keir, during his visit to east London where he joined a rowing team on the River Lea as part of a jubilee commemoration with young people, was also asked about Durham Police’s investigation into the event dubbed Beergate.
Both he and deputy party leader Angela Rayner have received questionnaires from Durham Constabulary as the force investigates a gathering held in party offices while Covid restrictions were in place.
Sir Keir was caught on camera drinking a beer in an MP’s office after a day of campaigning for the local elections in Durham in April 2021, with Rayner also at the event.
At the time of the north east gathering, non-essential retail and outdoor venues including pub gardens were open, but social distancing rules – which included a ban on indoor mixing between households – remained in place.
The opposition leader told PA on Saturday: “I’ve had the questionnaire from the police, and the position hasn’t changed.
“I’ve been clear that no rules were broken, and I’ve nothing really to add.”
Sir Keir has previously said he had “put everything on the line” by promising to step down if he receives a fixed-penalty notice following the police probe.