In a fiery Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Starmer accused Boris Johnson of further U-turns in the wake of the exam algorithm chaos.
Johnson fired back by saying Starmer had previously supported remaining in the European Union, then followed up by referencing Starmer’s frontbench service for Jeremy Corbyn.
“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 about it,” Johnson said.
His remarks echoed past criticism over Jeremy Corbyn’s statements about the IRA. The former Labour leader said he only met with Sinn Fein during the Troubles, and that was to find a resolution to the conflict.
He was attacked for not singling out republican terrorism for criticism. In 2017, he told Sky News: “I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”
Speaker Lindsay Hoyle took issue with Johnson’s response, telling the prime minister to stick to answering questions.
Boris Johnson has an inability to tell the truth and spouts Trump-style conspiracy theories.— Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (@DrRosena) September 2, 2020
He forgets that @Keir_Starmer was the DPP, keeping our streets safe and prosecuting some of the most dangerous people in our country.#PMQs pic.twitter.com/1hEl9cAF4n
A visibly angered Starmer, who headed up the Crown Prosecution Service before becoming an MP, said: “The prime minister said something about the IRA and I want him to take it back.
“I worked in Northern Ireland for five years with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, bringing peace.
“I prosecuted, as director of public prosecutions, serious terrorists for five years, working with the intelligence and security forces, and with the police in Northern Ireland.
“I ask the prime minister to have the decency to withdraw that comment.”
However, Johnson doubled down after Hoyle invited him to withdraw.
“I listened to the protestations of the right honourable gentleman and I think they would’ve been more in order throughout the long years in which he supported a leader of the Labour party...” he said, before being cut off by the speaker.
Starmer concluded: “When the prime minister has worked with the intelligence and security forces, prosecuting criminals and terrorists, he can lecture me.
“I asked him to do the decent thing but doing the decent thing and this prime minister don’t go together.”