Keir Starmer: Government has ‘serious questions’ to answer
Boris Johnson will be scrutinised in today’s Prime Minister’s Questions as England’s third lockdown, akin to restrictions last March, legally comes into force. On Tuesday, the number of new daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time. The virus is now spreading more rapidly through the country as the ‘Kent strain’, first identified in September 2020, pushes through Britain.
A handful of cases concerning the more aggressive ‘South African strain’ have also been recorded in the UK.
The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, on Sunday put pressure on the Prime Minister and called for a new national lockdown.
And yesterday, amid a drive for increased vaccination, Sir Keir urged the Government to roll-out a “round the clock” vaccination programme to tackle the spiralling rise in cases.
In calling for these moves, while the Government already works to implement them, Sir Keir has been branded by Mr Johnson “Captain Hindsight” – offering advice that has been publicly discussed by Downing Street officials.
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In echoing the Government line, others have also noted that Sir Keir risks being seen as leading a “protest party” – a group who pressure those in power but devise no original plans of their own.
Labour has slowly lost its influence on Britain and the electorate, with recent elections showing the party as having withered in vast swathes of the country.
Former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s woeful 2019 election loss was the most extreme example of this dampening appeal, with Labour appearing to be more popular among city-dwellers than in its traditional midlands and north of England, working class communities.
Paul Embery, a leading trade unionist and Labour member, told Express.co.uk that the party’s lack of leadership and direction could result in it becoming the party of “permanent protest” unable to hold Government.
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He said: “Labour is already the party of the cities, and I think it will stay the party of the fashionable cities, the university cities, unless it changes its philosophy radically.
“If it doesn’t, it just becomes a protest group which isn’t serious about winning power.
“It needs to focus on uniting both its old working class base and its more affluent, middle class base; it needs to appeal to both Hartlepool and Hampstead, and to give them equal amounts of focus.
“If it doesn’t, the electoral consequences are that the Labour Party will become the party of permanent protest – it’s not got a chance of winning power again, it won’t be an electoral force.”
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Although Sir Keir has been dubbed “Captain Hindsight”, his efforts to guide Government policy seem to resonate with the electorate.
According to the latest YouGov voting intentions polling data, Labour have the edge on Mr Johnson’s Conservatives, 41 percent to 37 percent.
And while many say Sir Keir’s opposition to the Government is passive, Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk that the Labour leader is carefully “playing politics” in order to steer both Mr Johnson and his own party.
He said: “His position has usually been, what the Government does is fine, it’s just too little and too late.
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“The Government is doing essentially what Sir Keir’s said, in terms of going with the tiers, so in his eyes, it’s doing the right thing – but it’s always too late, and by that point things have got worse.
“So yes, it’s a position that some people might find frustrating, but nonetheless it’s a valid position.
“He is playing politics, but he is saying sensible things.”
Meanwhile, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest more than one million people in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2.
Tier 5: England is now in its third lockdown of the pandemic
At a Downing Street news conference on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said he had “no choice” but to impose the new lockdown, with the number of patients in hospitals 40 percent higher than in the first peak.
MPs will later vote retrospectively on the newest lockdown legally coming into place.
It is expected to pass with ease, with Labour set to support the motion.
The third lockdown will allow restrictions to be in place until the end of March.