Boris Johnson attacked over £21m payment to COVID middleman 'at expense of hungry children'

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read

Watch: Johnson labels Starmer 'Captain Hindsight' after attack over £21m 'middleman' payment

  • Keir Starmer asks why Boris Johnson didn’t want to pay for free school meals while giving £21m to ‘middleman’ to secure PPE

  • Johnson calls Starmer ‘Captain Hindsight’ again, saying PPE deals were necessary amid shortage at beginning of pandemic

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

Sir Keir Starmer has attacked Boris Johnson over £21m of taxpayer cash paid to a businessman who acted as a “middleman” for securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff.

In their latest Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) clash, the Labour leader asked why the government found money for the Spanish “go-between”, but not more cash for hungry children or people who are self-isolating.

Johnson hit back by once again calling Starmer “Captain Hindsight” and suggesting the middleman was needed to help solve the UK’s shortage of PPE at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Referring to the government’s £500 payments for people on lower incomes who are forced to self-isolate, Starmer said: “Whilst the PM and chancellor won’t pay people enough to isolate properly, we learnt this week they can find £21m of taxpayers’ money to pay a go-between to deliver lucrative contracts for the Department of Health… £21m.”

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs on Wednesday. (Parliamentlive.tv)
Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs on Wednesday. (Parliamentlive.tv)

Referring to footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals during half-term – which Johnson initially rejected but eventually U-turned on – Starmer went on: “I’ll remind the PM that a few weeks ago he couldn’t find that amount of money for free school meals for kids over half-term.

“Does he think £21m for a middleman was an acceptable use of taxpayers’ money?”

The prime minister – appearing via video-link due to his self-isolation, having come into contact with a COVID-positive MP – said that at the start of the pandemic, Starmer was urging the government “to remove the blockages in our procurement process in order to get PPE”.

He went on: “We were facing a very difficult situation where across the world, there were not adequate supplies of PPE.

“We shifted heaven and earth to get 32 billion items of PPE into this country. I am very proud of what has been achieved.”

He added: “It’s entirely typical, I may say, of ‘Captain Hindsight’ that he now attacks our efforts to procure PPE.”

Johnson has mockingly referred to Starmer as “Captain Hindsight” during at least two PMQs sessions in the past.

A visibly annoyed Starmer said: “He talks about hindsight, I say catch up.”

Read more: COVID restrictions could be eased to make 'family Christmas' possible, top government adviser says

The Labour leader referred to his calls for a “circuit breaker” national lockdown, which Johnson initially rejected, before being forced to impose a national lockdown anyway on 5 November.

“I won’t take that from him,” Starmer said.

Watch: 8 exceptions to England's second national lockdown

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