But he only took this tough-guy stance after being savaged online for failing to offer stronger opposition leadership in the the midst of the crisis – leading to claims his policies are being shaped by online mobs. In a series of stinging rebukes even hardline Labour supporters were asking why he was lamely tweeting to criticise ministers instead of demanding to face down Boris Johnson’s Government to press the case for better protection for frontline NHS staff.
We need an effective Opposition representing the frontline and the rest of the population can send the angry tweets
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu
One furious Twitter user told him to leave the tweeting to the bored lockdown teenagers saying the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition should be concentrating on holding the Government to account by parliamentary means.
Sir Keir came under fire after he took to Twitter to describe as an “insult” Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s claim that precious personal protective equipment was being wasted by NHS workers.
Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist at the Labour-supporting Observer newspaper, was among the first to respond.
She said: “Why are you tweeting this instead of demanding answers in Parliament?
“Why haven’t you called for Parliament to be recalled?
“MPs, too, are failing NHS staff. Angry tweets are just angry tweets.
“Parliament has power. Where is it?”
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu also called on Sir Keir to take action in his new position as a Labour leader.
She said: “Get Parliament back and use its power to scrutinise the Government, stop its incompetence and work with it to bring better measures.
“We need an effective Opposition representing the frontline and the rest of the population can send the angry tweets.”
Twitter user John Martin was also concerned by Labour’s apparent lack of decisive leadership.
He said: “What do you expect the public to do? We can’t organise mass public gatherings. A general strike wouldn’t work.
“Without the Opposition opposing we have nothing. Where is the safety valve?”
A social media user called Curious Chak was even more critical of Sir Keir and posted: “If only Labour had a real leader who could hold the Tories’ feet to the fire.
“Instead we have a ‘forensic tweeter’.”
And Simon Smudge Smith tweeted: “I’ve been stunned by Labour’s silence on these matters.
“If ever there was a need for what was lacking previously it is someone to hold this Government to account and not ride roughshod over the public with soundbites.
“Stand up and be counted Keir. You’re needed.”
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Almost 10,000 people have died in UK hospitals since the outbreak started and Sir Keir has now called for the Commons to open for business after Easter – even if it means MPs asking questions over webcams.
In a letter to Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir Keir wrote: “Parliament has a responsibility to put questions to ministers at this time of national crisis.
“The best decisions are those that are challenged and subject to scrutiny. And by that process issues can be resolved, mistakes quickly rectified and individual concerns addressed, which will help save lives and protect our country.
“But if Parliament is not sitting or functioning effectively that cannot happen.”
The former director of prosecutions for the Crown Prosecution Service said Labour supported “many of the measures” implemented by the Government but set out a list of questions that “need to be answered”.
He called for clarity over an exit strategy from the lockdown imposed on the UK, along with answers over the “ramping up of testing” for Covid-19 and the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS staff.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has ensured a “virtual” chamber can be up and running after the Easter recess so MPs can return to duty.
It could see MPs questioning ministers from their homes by webcam if the lockdown is still in place, with senior ministers signalling there is no intention to curb the social distancing measures.
The Palace of Westminster currently requires MPs and peers to be physically present to walk through voting lobbies when passing legislation, but the Speaker has indicated exceptions could be made to ensure Parliament can function during the pandemic.
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