British Prime Minister Boris Johnson clashed with main opposition leader Keir Starmer in Parliament Wednesday during a heated debate that turned personal.
Johnson appeared in Parliament to take questions for the first time since members returned from their August recess.
On the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, Starmer accused Johnson and his government of reversing course time and again, calling it "12 U-turns and rising.” He quoted members of Johnson’s own party, who characterized Johnson’s actions as “mess after mess,” and questioned the prime minister’s competence.
In response, Johnson questioned Starmer’s record of supporting his predecessor, Labor Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who the prime minister characterized as an “IRA-condoning politician” who he said, “wanted to get out of NATO.”
The comment, referencing the Irish Republican Army, the Northern Ireland militant nationalist organization that used bombings and other violent tactics, prompted House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to intervene, asking Johnson to stick to the questions.
Starmer demanded that Johnson withdraw the comment highlighting his work with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and his former role as Britain’s chief prosecutor. When Johnson refused, Starmer said, “When the prime minister has worked with the security and intelligence forces prosecuting criminals and terrorists, he can lecture me.”
Johnson said his government had “turned the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic,” and made clear his priority was now addressing the economy. His government launched a campaign Tuesday to convince British citizens still working from home that it is safe to return to their offices.