Sir Keir Starmer brands UK’s coronavirus second wave ‘not an act of God but a failure of government’ and demands Boris Johnson unveil a ‘Plan B for the economy’ in his own address to the nation
- Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demanded the PM unveil ‘Plan B for the economy’
- But he also used the televised address to stress that he supports new restrictions
- Yet he said help aimed at keeping people in employment needs to be prioritised
- It comes a night after Mr Johnson warned Britons they faced a long, hard winter
Sir Keir Starmer has branded the UK’s coronavirus second wave ‘not an act of God but a failure of government’.
The Labour leader demanded Boris Johnson unveil a ‘Plan B for the economy’ in his own address to the nation after the PM’s last night.
But he also used the speech – televised on the BBC – to stress he supports new restrictions being brought in by the Government.
Yet he said help aimed at keeping people in employment also needs to be prioritised.
It comes a night after Mr Johnson warned Britons they faced a long, hard winter of police-enforced curbs on their freedom to see off coronavirus.
The PM said he was ‘deeply, spiritually reluctant’ to make new ‘impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom’ after unveiling new measures in Parliament yesterday.
Elsewhere in politics today:
- The founder of Pret and boss of Itsu savaged the PM for ‘spouting Churchillian nonsense’ and blasted him over his ‘criminal’ six-month work from home call;
- Business leaders urged Mr Johnson to think about other ways to stifle the spread of coronavirus;
- Traffic data from the UK’s biggest cities showed no change following his big speech to the country;
- Commuters on the way to the office blasted his guidance as ‘conflicting’ and ‘confusing’;
- One banker warned the mixed messaging would inflict a ‘devastating impact on the economy’;
- Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation, said it was ‘disappointed’ with the work from home suggestion;
- The Chief Executive of UKHospitality called the restrictions as ‘another crushing blow’ for many businesses;
- Transport eateries Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza reported a £1.3billion lockdown loss.
The Labour leader (pictured during the address) demanded Boris Johnson unveil a ‘Plan B for the economy’ in his own address to the nation after the PM’s last night
England, Wales and Scotland today posted 27 more Covid-19 deaths while Northern Ireland recorded none in the preliminary toll
Sir Keir Starmer’s speech in full:
When I was elected Leader of the Labour Party I said I would always act in the national interest.
That’s why, as the nation continues to fight against this dreadful virus, my priority will always be the same as yours to save lives and protect our NHS.
Sadly, despite all the sacrifices and heroism of the British people, it’s clear we are not through this yet. The picture presented by the Government’s medical advisers this week was stark and clear.
Infections are rising. Hospital admissions are increasing. And we know from bitter experience where that could lead. That’s why the Government had to introduce further restrictions last night.
We support this. And I urge everyone to follow the new guidance and the rule of law. While these restrictions are now necessary. They were not inevitable. The return of this virus, and the return of restrictions, are not an act of God. They’re a failure of Government.
The British people have done everything asked of them. But I’m afraid the Government has not. We’re a great country.
We shouldn’t have one of the highest death rates in the world, or one of the worst recessions. It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works. Or a plan to protect our care homes.
It shouldn’t be like this. People shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get a test for their child for themselves or for their relatives.
And we should be able to give our older people the dignity, security and respect they deserve. The Government needs to fix testing. Fast.
Because that’s the only we can get control of the virus. And prevent further restrictions. And we also need a ‘Plan B’ for the economy too.
Because it makes no sense to bring in new restrictions at the same time as phasing out support for jobs and businesses.
There was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement last night to protect people’s jobs, businesses or our town centres and high streets.
No clarity about what happens when the furlough scheme ends. That’s a huge gap.
It’s a huge mistake. And it could lead to a wave of job losses this winter. We need a national effort to protect jobs and prevent a second lockdown.
So I’ve offered to work with Prime Minister to do whatever we can to save lives and livelihoods. That offer remains open. My door is always open.
The weeks and months ahead will be difficult. And I know there is real frustration and anger at the mistakes that the Government has made in the last few months.
But, we will get through this. The darkness will lift. A better future is possible for our country. A country built on the values that have held us together during this pandemic.
Decency, fairness, opportunity, compassion and security. A future where Britain is everything it can be.
The best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in. That’s the future I want for my children and for my country. That’s why I do this. Together, we can build it.
Sir Keir said: ‘We need a ”Plan B” for the economy. It makes no sense to bring in new restrictions at the same time as phasing out support for jobs and businesses.’
He also pointedly criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the crisis, stating while new restrictions ‘are now necessary, they were not inevitable’.
The Labour leader said the increased restrictions are due to a ‘failure of Government’.
Sir Keir said: ‘Despite all the sacrifices and heroism of the British people, it’s clear we are not through this yet.
‘The picture presented by the Government’s medical advisers this week was stark and clear.
‘Infections are rising. Hospital admissions are increasing. And we know from bitter experience where that could lead.
‘That’s why the Government had to introduce further restrictions last night. We support this.
‘And I urge everyone to follow the new guidance and the rule of law. While these restrictions are now necessary, they were not inevitable.
‘The return of this virus, and the return of restrictions, are not an act of God. They’re a failure of Government.
‘The British people have done everything asked of them. But I’m afraid the Government has not. We’re a great country.
‘We shouldn’t have one of the highest death rates in the world, or one of the worst recessions.’
He added: ‘It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works.
‘People shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get a test for their child, for themselves or for their relatives.’
Mr Johnson said yesterday it was necessary to reintroduce working from home rules and a swathe of social measures in order to avoid a dramatic surge in deaths.
The beleaguered premier faced fire from all sides as he U-turned on his push to reopen workplaces after just a few weeks.
He also faced barbs for introducing other swingeing new measures including a 10pm pub curfew and £200 fines for mask rule-breakers in England.
The British Army could also potentially be drafted in to help police in the face of a surge of coronavirus infections sweeping the country.
He said ‘iron laws of geometrical progression are shouting at us from the graphs that we risk many more deaths, many more families losing loved ones before their time’.
And he hit out at his critics, including Tory MPs and business leaders who warned of the economic impact of what he is doing.
He said: ‘To those who say we don’t need this stuff, and we should leave people to take their own risks, I say these risks are not our own.
‘The tragic reality of having Covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.
‘And as for the suggestion that we should simply lock up the elderly and the vulnerable – with all the suffering that would entail – I must tell you that this is just not realistic.
‘Because if you let the virus rip through the rest of the population it would inevitably find its way through to the elderly as well, and in much greater numbers.’
The PM has already warned the new curbs could last into 2021 and said it could take until then to get mass testing up and running fully and a new vaccine available.
In a televised address to the nation last night the Prime Minister said he was ‘deeply, spiritually reluctant’ to make the changes he unveiled in Parliament yesterday
Sir Keir Starmer has apologised after Labour’s education spokeswoman said the party needed to make the most of the ‘good’ coronavirus crisis.
Boris Johnson accused Labour of exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic for political gain at Prime Minister’s Questions following comments by Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, that the party should not ‘let a good crisis go to waste’.
Labour leader Sir Keir, asked about the remarks in an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, said Ms Green ‘shouldn’t have said it’.
He apologised for what was said, but stressed the MP’s words had been ‘taken out of context’.
Following the exchange at PMQs, Conservative Party co-chairman Amanda Milling published a letter to Sir Keir calling on him to ‘condemn’ his shadow cabinet member’s comment.
Ms Green used the phrase during a Labour Connected event on Sunday, The Sun newspaper reported.
In a recording obtained by the Guido Fawkes website, the shadow frontbencher said: ‘I think we should use the opportunity… don’t let a good crisis go to waste.
‘We can really see now what happens when you under-resource schools, when you under-resource families and communities.’
In his closing exchange at PMQs, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think that the reality of the Opposition position has been exposed. The cat’s out of the bag.
‘Because it was his shadow education secretary (Kate Green) who said of the present crisis, she said, ‘don’t let a good crisis go to waste’.
‘That’s the real approach of the Labour Party. Seeking to create political opportunity out of a crisis.’
Speaking to Sky News, Sir Keir pushed back against Mr Johnson’s accusation.
He said: ‘I don’t think the Prime Minister was right with his comments but equally the shadow education secretary, she didn’t mean that in its proper context.
‘The Labour Party has apologised and I’m very happy to do so (again).’
Asked whether he had spoken with Ms Green, Sir Keir said: ‘The team have spoken to her and we have apologised.
‘I have apologised again – it was taken out of context, it wasn’t what she meant.
‘And in fairness, I think even the Prime Minister would recognise that we’ve been an instructive Opposition in the sense that I have openly supported him on the substantive decisions he’s had to make.’
He said: ‘Though our doctors and our medical advisers are rightly worried about the data now, and the risks over winter, they are unanimous that things will be far better by the spring, when we have not only the hope of a vaccine, but one day soon – and I must stress that we are not there yet – of mass testing so efficient that people will be able to be tested in minutes so they can do more of the things they love.
‘That’s the hope; that’s the dream. It’s hard, but it’s attainable, and we are working as hard as we can to get there.’
He continued: ‘Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.
‘If we follow these simple rules together, we will get through this winter together. There are unquestionably difficult months to come. And the fight against Covid is by no means over.
‘I have no doubt, however, that there are great days ahead. But now is the time for us all to summon the discipline, and the resolve, and the spirit of togetherness that will carry us through.’
But Mr Johnson immediately faced criticism from his own backbenches, with Telford MP Lucy Allan questioning on Twitter whether the UK’s ‘collective health’ was at risk.
She wrote: ‘Measures to tackle #covid must be proportionate to the risk. The virus is a serious threat to certain vulnerable groups.
‘We must protect these groups with targeted measures. Shutting down society causes massive damage to health, lives, and livelihoods of the whole population.’
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage blasted Mr Johnson’s ‘authoritarian’ response to the coronavirus crisis as he bemoaned: ‘We didn’t vote for this’.
He angrily tweeted: ‘The PM says we are a ‘freedom loving country’, but will fine you £10,000 and send the army in if he likes.
‘This is authoritarian – I don’t believe his promises on testing or the competence of the government. We didn’t vote for this.’
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: ‘We all want nothing more than to beat this dreadful virus and get back to normal.
‘Sadly, the statement from the Prime Minister confirms this is a long way off and there will be difficult times ahead.
‘The Prime Minister must take responsibility for what has gone wrong, and apologise for the chaotic failure of his ”world beating” test and trace system.
‘It is inexcusable that this vital test and trace operation has been totally overwhelmed in recent weeks.
‘Ministers must outline details of the practical steps they are taking to fix the test and trace system as quickly as possible. This is the only way to avoid yet more restrictions.
‘With millions of people worried about their jobs, businesses and livelihoods, the Prime Minister must also urgently set out a new economic plan, including the extension of furlough and more help for the self-employed and small business.’
Labour MP Chris Bryant slammed the Prime Minister’s tone, tweeting: ‘The problem with Johnson is he can’t deliver a tough message.
‘By saying he hates doing this he effectively undermines what he’s doing.
‘And throughout his talk about people breaking the rules I just thought of (chief adviser Dominic) Cummings.’
The evidence from Scotland that tougher rules do work to fight Covid-19: Glasgow’s outbreak slowed within five days of being hit by a local lockdown
Tougher lockdown rules could work, suggests official data showing Glasgow’s spike in coronavirus cases was controlled within days of being hit by fresh restrictions.
Residents in the city, home to around 600,000 people, and two neighbouring areas were banned from visiting any other households back at the start of September, in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The decision, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was prompted by figures revealing Glasgow’s spiralling outbreak was to blame for nearly a third of new cases in Scotland.
Around 37 people were testing positive for the life-threatening infection each day on September 2, the day when the restrictions came into place.
This had risen six-fold from the middle of August, when an average of six people were being diagnosed each day, and was up massively on the rolling average of just one infection a day in July.
But government statistics show the city’s infection curve had started to flatten just five days after the measures were imposed, showing the rolling average had hit 52 on September 7 and has barely risen since.
Glasgow’s seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases (blue line) has flattened since residents were banned from visiting any other households on September 2
A similar pattern was shown in West Dunbartonshire
In East Renfrewshire, cases continued rising (blue line) after restrictions were imposed on September 2. But since then, cases have dropped back down again
Nicola Sturgeon imposed a blanket ban on social mixing in households from today in Scotland
Figures from Public Health Scotland, the country’s health agency which updates Covid-19 data daily, shows a small uptick in cases over the past few days, with the rolling average standing at 64 on September 20.
Fresher data is not yet available because it is based on when samples were taken and not how many were actually registered on any given day. It can take several days for patients to get their results back.
This uptick in the past two weeks is in line with the rest of the UK, which has been blamed on children and adults returning to school and work, and appears to now be dipping again.
Sir Harry Burns, a professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde, said data shows the lockdown measures in the west of Scotland are working.
Because of this, he supported Ms Sturgeon’s decision to impose a blanket ban on social mixing in households from today.
And it’s claimed Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is adamant England needs its own household visit ban.
Around 1.7million Scots are now under tougher local restrictions — almost a third (31 per cent) of the country’s 5.4million population.
Aberdeen, home to 208,000, had previously been under a strict ‘lockdown’ from August 5 to August 23, which included the closure of pubs and restaurants, a household mixing ban and a travel restriction of five miles.
East Dunbartonshire seen Covid-19 cases drop (blue line) since restrictions were put in place on September 7 (pictured)
Renfrewshire has seen Covid-19 cases stall (blue line) since restrictions were put in place on September 7 (pictured)
South Lanarkshire is starting to show improvements in Covid-19 cases (blue line), having been added to the list of places in Scotland hit with harder measures on September 12 (pictured)
North Lanarkshire has seen cases dip very slightly (blue line) before rising again after a ‘lockdown’ was imposed on September 12 (pictured)
Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire were then slapped with new Covid-19 control measures on September 3.
It was expected to be in place for two weeks, however the Scottish Government has not yet lifted them.
Restrictions on visiting other households were applied because ‘transmission appears mainly to be happening inside people’s homes and between households, rather than in pubs and restaurants’, Ms Sturgeon said.
The daily average of cases in Glasgow at the time was 36.6. Cases continued to be diagnosed, reaching an average of 52 five days after the measures were announced.
But then, a week after the restrictions were put in places, cases levelled off at 44.6, suggesting the spike had been stopped in its tracks.
A similar pattern was shown in West Dunbartonshire, home to 89,000 people.
The average went from seven on September 2, to nine on September 6, before levelling off between five and seven cases a day.
It appears both Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire saw a sudden spike in cases again in mid-September. But data from the past two to three days shows this may be resolving.
In East Renfrewshire, around four people a day were testing positive for the coronavirus when the area was put under ‘local lockdown’.
This continued to rise sharply, doubling to eight by September 11. But since then, cases have dropped back down to four per day.
Although it is at the same level as when the measures were imposed, the data shows the outcome is still better than what could have been, had the virus been allowed to continue spreading.
On September 7, Ms Sturgeon ‘regrettably’ extended the measures to East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire, home to around 286,000 people, combined.
Both have seen a significant stalling in the spiralling Covid-19 cases.
South Lanarkshire is starting to show improvements, having been added to the list of places in Scotland hit with harder measures on September 12. But North Lanarkshire’s cases are still climbing.
Ms Sturgeon has now taken the Covid-19 response a step further in Scotland, proving to be moving more cautiously than neighboring England once again.
Scots are being barred from visiting other people in their own home – with some exemptions – officially from Friday. But people are being encouraged to comply from today. Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that Scotland would be following England in imposing a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.
It came as part of a package of measures to try to stop coronavirus from ‘spiralling out of control’ in Scotland.
Sir Harry told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: ‘I can understand the reasons for the decisions the First Minister has made.
‘That’s basically because the data on the progress of the partial lockdown in the west of Scotland shows that it’s been effective, so she’s extending that to the rest of Scotland.
‘I don’t think we can do this too early, to be honest. I think we were a bit late going into the first lockdown and that may be why we had such significant impact. But I think we are seeing increasing daily cases.
‘Initially they highest number of cases were in the 20-40 year olds. We are now beginning to see cases increase in the over 60s and hospitalisations are increasing.
I think if we don’t go now, we will see significant numbers of hospitalisation, significant strain on the hospital system again, and significant numbers of deaths.’
Ms Sturgeon accepted the ‘tough’ new restrictions felt like a ‘step backwards’, but they had not been introduced lightly.
She also defended her decision to introduce tougher coronavirus restrictions than in England.
The Scottish First Minister insisted the expert advice she received was that a curfew on pubs alone, as is the case in England, would not be sufficient to halt rising case numbers.
She refused to directly criticise UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for failing to take action to prevent households from mixing indoors, as she has done.
But she did say she believed governments should ‘try to co-ordinate as much as possible across the UK’.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme she said Scotland and the UK were in a ‘tough spot’.
Warning that ‘we are again at a tipping point with Covid’, Ms Sturgeon added: ‘If we don’t act now, urgently and decisively, then we might find Covid running out of control again.
‘The judgment I have made, and it is not an easy one, is if we take tough action now we might actually manage to be under these restrictions for a shorter period of time then we would end up being if we delayed that action.
‘So these are tough judgments but I think, given the loss of life we know that Covid can result in, the health damage that it does, we’ve got to be prepared at moments like this, people like me, to take tough decisions and to be prepared to do things even if they are unpopular, for the greater good.
‘I can only look at the situation in Scotland and I can only speak for the judgments I am making.
‘And my advisers say to me, yes, a curfew on pubs is certainly something that should be done and we have taken that decision, but in and of itself it is not going to be enough to arrest this increase in Covid cases and bring the R number down and bring the epidemic under control again.
‘That’s why I made the difficult judgment yesterday to go further.’
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