Boris Johnson 'offended bereaved families of COVID victims with childish joke', claims Keir Starmer

Jimmy Nsubuga
Boris Johnson reacts after being accused of offending bereaved families. (Parliament TV)
Boris Johnson reacts after being accused of offending bereaved families. (Parliament TV)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the prime minister offended bereaved families of coronavirus victims with a childish joke.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Starmer claimed Boris Johnson angered mourning relatives last year with a gag about “Calvin Klein briefs”.

In July, after saying in the House of Commons that he mourned the loss of the victims of COVID, the PM accused Starmer of continuously changing his mind on whether he backed government programmes to tackle the pandemic.

Johnson said: “He needs to make up his mind which brief he’s going to take today because at the moment, Mr Speaker, he’s got more briefs than Calvin Klein.”

Watch: PM 'offended bereaved families of COVID victims with childish joke', claims Keir Starmer

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On Wednesday, Starmer said bereaved families were unhappy with the PM’s words, and that he would be speaking to them again.

The Labour leader added: “The last time I did this I asked the prime minister what he would like me to say to them on his behalf. He replied with a pre-prepared childish gag.

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“I can tell the prime minister just how badly that went down with those families when I spoke to them later that afternoon.

“So I’ll ask him again and I hope this time he will have the decency to answer them properly.”

Johnson responded by saying he was grateful for Starmer meeting the families as he and other MPs had done.

He said: “The message I’ll give those families is the same I have given everybody I’ve met is that I of course deeply, personally regret the loss of life, the suffering of their families.”

The PM said the best way they could honour the dead and their families was “to work together to bring this virus down” and keep it under control.

He then accused Starmer of continuously trying to score political points throughout the pandemic and changing his mind on key issues.

Paramedics wheel a patient wearing an oxygen mask into the emergency department of the Royal London Hospital in London, England, on January 26, 2021. Data from the UK's official statistics bodies revealed today that, based on death certificates, up to January 15 this year nearly 104,000 people have died with coronavirus since the pandemic began. Government figures, which are based on deaths within 28 days of a positive covid-19 test, remain slightly lower, yesterday standing at 98,531. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Paramedics wheel a patient into the Royal London Hospital in London. (Getty)

Tricia Barnett, whose brother Laurence died of coronavirus last March, said Johnson had shown families “huge disrespect” when he made the comments at PMQs last year.

At the time she told the Islington Gazette: “When you have someone who has died, what he said is not just shocking.

“It’s disgraceful, and it becomes personal.

“His comment is outside the boundaries of acceptability, and shows him as a man without any comprehension of empathy or any sense of responsibility.”

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