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Keir Starmer pledges to work with Boris Johnson to save Christmas for UK

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Keir Starmer has made an astonishing offer to Britain’s incompetent Prime ­Minister: He will work with Boris Johnson to beat Covid – and save Christmas for the country.

In an exclusive, hard-hitting interview with the Sunday Mirror, the Labour leader said he believes that opposition politicians have a duty to pull together to rescue Britain because the PM is so useless.

He is furious with Mr Johnson for failing for four months to hold an ­emergency COBRA meeting to sort out the Covid-19 mess.

He even offered to sit in on the ­meetings himself to help thrash out a plan to battle the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Keir said: “That’s not why I’m calling for COBRA to be reconvened.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responsible for 12 U-turns

“The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, should be there when decisions are taken.

“The PM isn’t up to the job. What people have seen for weeks and months is a pattern of refusing to acknowledge a problem exists, then doing a U-turn, and finally shifting the blame on to someone else.

“I appreciate this is not easy and, if it was just a matter of one or two U-turns, that’s understandable. But he’s done 12. That’s serial incompetence.

“We are a constructive opposition and will support the Government when it gets it right and challenge it when it’s wrong.”

Keir has given Mr Johnson 24 hours to pull his finger out, sort out the testing fiasco and rescue the festive season after a summer of dithering.

Keir Starmer speaks with Sunday Mirror Political Editor Nigel Nelson in Walsall

The Labour leader said: “He has to act swiftly and decisively now to get infections under control so that Christmas is not lost.

“We were promised world-beating testing, but we haven’t even got a serviceable system.

“It is astonishing that the Government didn’t anticipate that we would need to boost testing when children went back to school and people went back to work.”

With 75,000 teachers now off and 740 schools wholly or partly closed because of Covid, Keir wants to see children pushed to the front of the testing queue along with key workers.

And he says they must be able to get tests and results within 48 hours.

Keir said: “We must fix the testing system. It was the Government who wanted schools back and people in offices.

“And their part of the bargain was a test-and-tracing system, up and running. The responsibility for that lies with the PM.”

Keir Starmer speaks with Sunday Mirror political editor Nigel Nelson

The Labour leader says testing should be entrusted to local authorities ­because they know their communities.

He said: “They were up for this months ago but even at the eleventh hour I say localise this.”

The UK is now firmly in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus.

Scientists from Independent SAGE predict hospitals will be filled next weekend with as many Covid patients as there were in March.

A week ago, one in 1,400 people were infected, but that has jumped to one in 900. And cases are doubling every eight days.

Independent SAGE says lives can be saved if the current target of 200,000 tests a day is doubled.

Keir said: “There are going to be high temperatures, coughs and sore throats this winter as there are every winter. That will mean we need 500,000 tests a day.”

Labour supported the national lockdown and the party will continue to back local restrictions, and even a national curfew.

But Keir is not so keen on people snitching on neighbours who don’t obey the Tories’ rule of six.

He insisted: “People do not want to shop their neighbours. They just want them to follow the rules.”

The spike of cases in Bolton, Lancs, is being blamed on a superspreader who did not quarantine after a

holiday in Spain and went on a pub crawl instead.

The Labour leader thinks people like that should be prosecuted.

And he accepts if the country is faced with a choice between closing schools or closing pubs, children should take priority.

I met Keir in Walsall, West Midlands, shortly before he sat down with local councillors to build up trust in Labour after the party’s drubbing in last year’s election.

It is now party conference season so we should have been hooking up in a hotel in Liverpool.

But conference has gone virtual this year. Keir’s leadership acceptance speech was made via Zoom. His key-note conference speech will be too.

With bungling PM BoJo leading the most cackhanded government in living memory, Labour should be riding high in the polls.

But a YouGov survey for The Times had the party on 40 per cent, neck-and-neck with the Tories.

Keir said: “We must recognise the scale of last year’s defeat and accept the need for change.

“This is a four-year strategy. We must focus on the poll to be held in 2024. That’s the only poll that matters.”

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