PMQs: Keir Starmer hammers Boris Johnson for dropping international comparisons

Boris Johnson suffered yet more humiliation at the hands of Keir Starmer at PMQs today, this time over the issue of international coronavirus comparisons.

Facing the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, the Labour leader questioned why the government is no longer showing international comparisons in its daily coronavirus briefings.


Indeed, for the past seven weeks, ministers have displayed a graph showing the UK’s coronavirus mortality compared to other countries. Yesterday, just a few days after the UK logged the second highest COVID death toll in the world, this graph was ditched.

In a typically bumbling response, Johnson said that it was too soon to compare our performance to other countries, and that it would take time to collect all the appropriate data.

However, as Starmer pointed out, it is therefore bizarre that the government has been using international comparisons for weeks, when it now claims not to believe in them.

“The problem with the Prime Minister’s answer is it’s pretty obvious that for seven weeks when we weren’t the highest number in Europe they [international graphs] were used for comparison purposes, but as soon as we hit that unenviable place they’ve been dropped,” Starmer said.

In addition, while Johnson last week used the work of data scientist David Spiegelhalter to prove his argument, this week it was Starmer’s turn to quote the academic.

The Labour leader pointed out that while Spiegelhalter believes that it’s too early to compile detailed international coronavirus league tables, he believes it’s essential that we continue to learn from other countries.

Not least because we “have not done very well” in controlling the virus, according to Spiegelhalter himself.