Keir Starmer attacked the Prime Minsiter accusing him of either knowing he was aware the exam result system adopted to grade A-levels and GCSE students this year was wrong and did nothing about it, or he did not know when he should have. The Labour leader pressed Boris Johnson to clarify his position but faced a brutal backlash as the Prime Minister promptly mocked him in the House of Commons.
Mr Johnson blasted: “Is he now saying that those grades aren’t right?
“Or is he just captain hindsight leaping on a bandwagon and opposing a policy that he supported two weeks ago?”
Mr Johnson highlighted the stress pupils and parents have undergone before noting exams could not take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He went on: “As a result of what we learned about the tests, the results that had come in, we did institute a change, we did act.
“The students, the pupils of this country now do have their grades and I really ask (Sir Keir) whether he will join me in congratulating those pupils on their hard work and whether he agrees with me that they deserve the grades they’ve got.”
Sir Keir Starmer said he had already congratulated students on their grades, adding, on why the Prime Minister had “avoided” his question: “He either knew of the problem with the algorithm and did nothing or he didn’t know when he should have.
“So let me ask again: when did the Prime Minister first know there’d be a problem with the algorithm?”
Boris Johnson replied: “Ofqual made it absolutely clear time and again that in their view the system that was in place was robust. Ofqual is an independent organisation and credit had to be given to their views.”
He accused Sir Keir of “undermining confidence” in the return of schools in England, claiming pupils are “going back to school in record numbers” despite “all the gloom” from the Labour leader.
Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of being “just tin eared and making it up as he goes along”.
He added: “He’s fooling nobody, even his own MPs have run out of patience.”
He cited one saying: “It’s mess after mess, his own MPs, U-turn after U-turn, it’s a fundamental issue of competence, God knows what’s going on, there’s no grip. His own MPs are right aren’t they?”
Responding, Mr Johnson said: “This is a leader of the Opposition who backed remaining in the EU and now is totally silent on the subject, now has performed a U-turn. He backed – in fact he still does Mr Speaker – this is a leader of the Opposition who supported an IRA-condoning politician who wanted to get out of NATO and now says absolutely nothing. This is a leader of the Opposition who sat on the front bench whilst there was anti-Semitism…”
But Mr Johnson’s comments were cut off by the Speaker who called for Order.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle asked if the Prime Minister wanted to withdraw his allegation he made about Sir Keir Starmer.
Boris Johnson replied: “I am very happy to say that I think… I listened to the protestations of the right honourable gentleman and think they have would have been more in order throughout the long years in which he supported a leader of the Labour Party (Jeremey Corbyn)…”
Sir Lindsay then signalled for Mr Johnson to sit down.
In response, Sir Keir said: “When the Prime Minister has worked with the intelligence and security forces prosecuting criminals and terrorists he can lecture me.”