Saturday, July 13, 2024

Starmer raises hopes of extra bank holiday if England win Euros

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Keir Starmer has said he wants to “mark the occasion” if England win the Euros football tournament, after the team beat the Netherlands to secure a place in Sunday’s final.

However, the prime minister stopped short of confirming there would be a bank holiday if Gareth Southgate’s team emerged victorious from their final against Spain, saying that he did not want to “jinx” the outcome.

The Liberal Democrats have led calls for an extra bank holiday after England claimed a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Starmer previously supported calls for a bank holiday when England’s women’s football team made it to the World Cup final last year.

The prime minister, speaking at the Nato summit in Washington, said: “We should certainly mark the occasion, I don’t want to jinx it. I went to the last Euros final, I don’t want to go through that again.

“I don’t want to jinx anything but we must mark it in some way. But the most important thing is getting it over the line on Sunday.”

If England defeat Spain, there are plans being made for a celebration in London on Tuesday, in which the squad would travel by open-top bus from Guildhall in the City to Buckingham Palace, where there would be a reception, the Guardian understands.

The players would meet Starmer the day before. Downing Street has already confirmed the prime minister will attend the final in Berlin on Sunday, along with the new culture secretary, Lisa Nandy.

Starmer said he always knew the team were going to go “all the way” in the tournament, as he revealed that he stepped out of meetings at the Nato summit to watch part of the match with the Dutch prime minister, Dick Schoof.

“It was fantastic. I managed to pop out from one of my sessions for just five minutes, which is when I saw Harry Kane get the first goal. I missed the second one but it was brilliant,” he said.

“So on we go now, great chance. I’ve always said this team were going to go all the way so I’m really, really pleased and just good luck for Sunday.”

Starmer said it looked like football was coming home when asked about the result just minutes after the final whistle during an Oval Office meeting with the US president, Joe Biden.

On the flight to Washington, Starmer had joked that officials would pass him notes during the summit with updates on England’s semi-final match.

The prime minister told reporters travelling with his delegation that his advice to Southgate, the England manager, was simple: “Win!”

He added: “I’ve sent a message to the team, obviously I wish them well, I want them to win, and let’s hope they can do it tomorrow.”

However, Starmer tempted fate when he joked about the team’s chances if the match went to penalties, as it did against Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

“I’d remind you, England have not missed a penalty under a Labour government in 2024,” he said.

In a round of broadcast interviews, Starmer was asked if he would resign if football “does not come home”.

The prime minister responded: “No. This is a brilliant team, notwithstanding some of the early games, I’ve always believed in this team, I think they’re very good. I have been to these finals before, I went to the last one, I’m hoping that with this team, we can bring it home. But I think a whole country will be willing them on when it gets to Sunday.”

Two extra one-off bank holidays were held across the UK in 2022, one for the Queen’s platinum jubilee and another for her funeral. The king’s coronation in May 2023 was also a bank holiday.

The king congratulated the England team on reaching the final – but urged them to avoid more last-minute drama.

He quipped about the recent drama endured by England fans, including a last-gasp equaliser in the second round against Slovakia and a penalty triumph against Switzerland in the quarter-final, asking them to watch out for the nation’s blood pressure in the final clash with Spain.

He said: “My wife and I join all our family in wishing you the warmest congratulations on reaching the final of the Uefa European Championship – and in sending our very best wishes for Sunday’s match.

“If I may encourage you to secure victory before the need for any last-minute wonder-goals or another penalties drama, I am sure the stresses on the nation’s collective heart rate and blood pressure would be greatly alleviated!”

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