Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was last night embroiled in a protocol row after Westminster sources claimed that Buckingham Palace had protested about him issuing his condolences over Prince Philip’s death before Boris Johnson.
Sir Keir rushed out his message at 12.19 on Friday – just 17 minutes after the Palace announced the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, and 11 minutes before the Prime Minister released a statement paying tribute to the Royal Consort.
A senior Government insider told Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges that the order of the condolences had irritated Royal officials, saying: ‘It was the Palace’s wish the Prime Minister spoke first.’
Sir Keir is already facing embarrassment over the day of tributes by MPs planned for tomorrow, after a leak of WhatsApp messages from Labour MPs’ office managers – a message from one party official said: ‘It’s going to be intolerable’
Last night, a Labour source said that any breach had been inadvertent.
‘If there is a protocol about this, it is not something that anyone has told us about’, the source said, adding: ‘The Tory Party chairman Amanda Milling and chief whip Mark Spencer also spoke before the Prime Minister. We have counted ten Government Ministers who commented on the death before the Prime Minister. Will they be rebuked for it?’
Downing Street and Buckingham Palace declined to comment, but it is likely to revive memories of the row over Tony Blair’s attempt to inflate his role in the Queen Mother’s lying- in-state in 2002.
Sir Keir is already facing embarrassment over the day of tributes by MPs planned for tomorrow, after a leak of WhatsApp messages from Labour MPs’ office managers – a message from one party official said: ‘It’s going to be intolerable’.
In his tribute, Sir Keir said that the UK had ‘lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip’
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was forced to delete a tweet he posted 40 minutes after Prince Philip’s death was announced, calling for a show of solidarity with Bolivia.
He later posted a message saying: ‘Losing a loved one, as so many families have this past year, is always heartbreaking. My thoughts are with Prince Philip’s family and all who loved him’.
In his tribute, Sir Keir said that the UK had ‘lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip’, adding: ‘He will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the Queen. For more than seven decades, he has been at her side. Their marriage has been a symbol of strength, stability and hope.’
Mr Johnson stood outside No 10 to say that the Duke had ‘helped to steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life’, and also hailed his ‘steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen... not just as her Consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her strength and stay of more than 70 years.’
A source close to Sir Keir said: ‘Keir’s private office have had a number of constructive and respectful conversations with No 10 over the past 24 hours without this being mentioned. It is appalling that someone in Government is attempting to play politics during a period of national mourning.’
Mr Johnson stood outside No 10 to say that the Duke had ‘helped to steer the Royal Family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life’
Ministers boast of Duke’s Award wins at Cabinet
During Friday afternoon’s Cabinet meeting called by Boris Johnson in the wake of Prince Philip’s death, Health Secretary Matt Hancock piped up proudly to mention his participation as a teenager in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
‘Trust you to have done that, Matt,’ said Mr Johnson with a wry smile.
Not to be outdone, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said he had also earned a badge.
The light-hearted exchange coincides with rumours that the hugely popular scheme should be adapted in some way to mark the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing.
Founded in 1956, it now operates in more than 140 countries, offering adventure and training courses to millions of young people between the ages of 14 and 24, leading to gold, silver or bronze badges.
But which badges did the Ministers win? ‘I’ve already said enough,’ declared Mr Hancock.
‘Sadly, I think we all only got to bronze,’ said Mr Jenrick.
‘Or me at least.’