Sir Keir Starmer has told Conservative MPs they have a “duty” to remove Boris Johnson from No 10 immediately or face a no confidence vote in the Commons next week.
The Labour leader insisted Mr Johnson should not be allowed to continue as a caretaker prime minister, just 24 hours after he set out his plans to resign from office upon a new Tory leader being elected.
In a bullish press conference — just hours after he was cleared by Durham Police in a two-month long investigation — Sir Keir said his party is “ready” for a general election and the country deserved a “fresh start”.
“If there’s a general election, this government will fall and we’ve got a plan for the country,” he said.
Accusing Mr Johnson of “desperately clinging on” to power, he added: “The Tory party should remove him and if they don’t we will step up in the national interest and bring a vote of no confidence”.
Imploring Tory MPs to act, he said: “I think the duty is on the Conservative Party to do the right thing and obviously there are meetings next week with the ’22 committee. It’s for them to do the right thing.
“If they don’t we will step up with a vote of confidence. There are plenty of Conservatives who have said they don’t have faith in the prime minister.”
Answering questions, Sir Keir also stressed there is “no basis for an alliance” with the SNP at any general election while appearing less forceful in ruling out a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The Labour leader said: “I will absolutely rule it out. Let me take the SNP first: There will be no deal going into a general election and no deal coming out of a general election. There is no basis, no basis for an alliance with a party who wants to break up the United Kingdom.
“So it’s not just a numbers game, it’s an in principle position. There is no basis for an alliance under a Keir Starmer government between Labour and the SNP. Full stop.
“So far as the Lib Dems are concerned, we want a Labour majority. We want to deliver on our mission and that is what we are going to do. We are fighting for a majority Labour government to deliver our mission.”
His remarks came after Durham Police cleared the Labour leader and his deputy, Angela Rayner, saying there was “no case to answer” in their investigation into breaches of Covid regulations in April 2021.
The force said it would issue no fixed penalty notices after taking evidence from 16 people who gathered at Durham Miners’ Hall after a campaigning event, including Sir Keir, and that no further action will be taken.
When the investigation was launched in May both the Labour leader and Ms Rayner vowed to resign if they were fined by Durham Police, but have consistently insisted no rules were broken at the beer and curry gathering.
Their joint promise came a month after Boris Johnson was issued with a fixed penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police for a breach of Covid regulations alongside the former chancellor Rishi Sunak, but resisted calls to resign.
Speaking at Friday’s press conference, Sir Keir said: “People said to me I was taking a risk by saying I would step down if I was fined. But it was never about that. For me it was a matter of principle.
“It shouldn’t be controversial to say those who make the law can’t break the law. But we have to set the bar far higher than that.”
After being cleared on Friday, Sir Keir’s former director of communications Ben Nunn described the investigation as a “cloud” over the leadership and that Sir Keir would be “personally relieved and politically vindicated”.
“He took a big political gamble when he said he would step down if he was fined by the police,” he told Sky News. “But that gamble has paid off”.
But the North West Durham constituency Labour Party called on Tory MP Richard Holden to apologise for his role in demanding the police inquiry, saying the force were place in an “impossible position”, adding: “Dirty tricks plain for all to see. He should be utterly ashamed of himself”.