The opposition leader drew widespread scorn over his decision to not take part in a major Commons vote on the new tier system of restrictions for England. During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Sir Keir touched on the collapse of the Arcadia Group and Debenhams and pressed Mr Johnson on whether there would be Government support for those who have lost their jobs during the epidemic.
Sir Keir said: “What is he going to do now to protect the jobs and the pensions of all those affected by the closures?”
Mr Johnson replied by saying the business secretary had asked the Insolvency Service to look at the conduct of the Arcadia fashion group and added: “We will do everything we can to restore the high street.”
The Prime Minister then went on to attack his opponent for abstaining on Tuesday night’s vote.
He said: “I think it is a bit much that he should attack the economic consequence of coronavirus when neither he or his troops could be bothered to vote for measures that would open up the economy.”
Brexit campaigner and political commentator Darren Grimes also backed up Mr Johnson on Twitter.
He said it was a bit rich for Sir Keir to rip apart the impact of the Tory Government’s lockdown when he himself had wanted the shutdown to happen sooner.
Mr Grimes tweeted: “I just don’t understand Sir Keir Starmer’s line of attack here on the joblessness caused by the lockdown strategy.
He showed no signs of laying off the pressure on Mr Johnson after the Tory leader faced a major revolt from members of his own party in the Commons on Tuesday.
But despite the rebellion, he won the vote on the post-lockdown tier system by 291 votes to 78.
Sir Keir is now considering using a parliamentary device to compel ministers to release the dossier if they do not make it public this week.
According to a report in The Times, a COVID-19 sectoral impacts dashboard prepared by Whitehall officials rates a dozen sectors “red” and facing significant job cuts and revenue losses.
The report confounded the anger among Conservative MPs who were disappointed by the lack of detail in the Government’s impact assessment of the tiered system ushered in on Wednesday as the lockdown expired.
Writing in the same newspaper, Sir Keir said it is “alarming” that the Government is “trying to suppress the evidence of what is actually going on in the economy”.
He added: “The Prime Minister must do the right thing and release all the modelling it has done of sectoral impacts and potential job losses, so that we can decide whether this Government’s economic package is good enough and what further improvements need to be made – and he needs to do it this week.
“If he fails to do so, Labour is ready to force a vote on the issue and give Conservative MPs the chance to join us in flushing out the evidence. I do not want to go down that road, but I am prepared to do so in the national interest.”
The Labour leader, who is eight months into his role, is toying with the idea of using a “humble address” to the Queen, which opposition MPs successfully used to force the Government to disclose Brexit-related documents.