Starmer ‘watching cheerleading’ rather than having Friday night dinner – Sunak

Rishi Sunak has said he is “in this to work my socks off” and that he thinks Sir Keir Starmer was “watching cheerleading or kickboxing” on Friday nights rather than setting the time aside for a Jewish dinner.

The Prime Minister was asked on This Morning about the Jewish community being upset about his party’s response to Sir Keir’s comments that he tries to “not do a work-related thing” on Friday nights.

Mr Sunak said on This Morning: “I think what Keir was saying he was with his kids on a Friday night out watching cheerleading or kickboxing rather than doing that. But the point is this, everyone’s going to do this job in a different way.

“One of the things I’ve spoken about a lot is that doing this job means I’m not as good a dad, I’m not as good a husband, as I would love to be, and that comes with the territory of being in public service, and having the responsibility to be Prime Minister, to do a great job for everyone who’s watching.

He said he would “work day and night” to make a difference to people’s lives and appreciated the “enormous privilege” of having the country’s top job.

“I love my country for what it’s done for my family and I’m in this to work my socks off so I can make that same difference to everybody else. That’s how I approach this job,” he said.

The Labour leader had told Virgin Radio that he and his wife, who is Jewish, have a strategy to “carve out really protected time for the kids” and that he tries not to do work after 6pm on Friday.

“Now, there are few exceptions, but that’s what we do. My son goes kickboxing, so I’ll often take him there, and my daughter goes swimming and cheerleading now. So, I’ve been to see her in cheerleading competitions,” Sir Keir said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a General Election campaign visit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a General Election campaign visit (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Tories said Sir Keir’s stance would make him a “part-time” prime minister while Cabinet ministers mocked him, suggesting he would refuse to go to work if there was an international crisis on a Friday evening.

Addressing the row on Times Radio, Sir Keir said he thought it was “ridiculous” the topic was being talked about and clarified that “of course, I’ve had to work Fridays in the past, I’ll work Fridays in the future”.

Lord Mann, the Government’s antisemitism adviser, said criticism by senior Tories was “dangerous”.

He said: “The attack on Keir Starmer for asserting his right to family time on a Friday night, as he has done for many, many years, is so dangerous. So insidious from those aware of why he chooses to be with his family specifically on Friday evenings.”

Friday night Shabbat dinners are important in the Jewish faith and Sir Keir has talked about making sure his children are aware of their heritage.