Starmer: “If we are to complete the journey safely, the roadmap needs clear directions”

Keir Starmer has called for “clear directions” from the government in response to the Prime Minister’s coronavirus statement delivered on Sunday.

In his own broadcast to the nation today, the Labour leader will say: “What we needed from the Prime Minister last night was clarity and reassurance.

“We needed to hear that nobody would be asked to go to work or send their children to school without it being safe to do so.

“We needed to know that the huge problems we have seen with protective equipment are over. That the crisis in our care homes has finally been gripped.

“That everybody who needs a test can finally get one. Above all, we needed to know when we could see our loved ones again.”

He will add: “The Prime Minister said he was setting out a road map – but if we are to complete the journey safely, the roadmap needs clear directions.”

The leader will also reiterate his pledge to provide a “new type of opposition” to both challenge and support the government during the coronavirus crisis.

He is set to ask questions on workplace safety, public transport, childcare and caring responsibilities, police enforcement, and divergence between the UK’s four nations.

The message will be broadcast at 5.50pm on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds, and with its accompanying video of Starmer at 6.55pm on BBC One and BBC News channels.

On Sunday, Boris Johnson told people unable to work from home to return to their workplaces “this week”. Journalists were briefed that this referred to Monday, but this was later changed to Wednesday.

Labour expressed concern that advice for workers was changed with just 12 hours’ notice, and without publication of back-to-work guidelines, due to be released tomorrow.

Earlier this afternoon, Starmer questioned the Prime Minister on the back-to-work plans and said the “clarity and reassurance” needed by the country were “in pretty short supply”.

The 50-page document published today recommends that people wear face coverings in enclosed spaces, and says people can meet with one person outside their household while distancing.

Below is the full transcript of the broadcast.

We are living through the biggest threat this country has faced for a generation. Coronavirus has taken so much from us. It’s brought normal life to a halt.

We can no longer see our friends, no longer spend time with extended family, and over 30,000 people have lost their lives. Behind these statistics are families torn apart by grief.

Millions are worried about their loved ones, their jobs, their communities, their families and their future. That’s why when I was elected leader of the Labour Party, just over a month ago, I promised a new type of opposition.

Labour will always put the national interest first. We will have the courage to support the government when that’s the right thing to do, and the courage to challenge the government where it’s getting it wrong.

Today I repeat that message. Labour has supported lockdown and we continue to do so. Public health and saving lives must always come first, whether we voted for this government or not.

At this moment of national crisis, we all rely on the government to get this right. That’s why we’ve called for a national consensus and offered to work with the government to defeat this dreadful virus.

What we needed from the Prime Minister last night was clarity and reassurance. We needed to hear that nobody would be asked to go to work or send their children to school without it being safe to do so.

We needed to know that the huge problems we’ve seen with protective equipment are over. That the crisis in our care homes has finally been gripped. That everybody who needs a test can finally get one. Above all, we needed to know when we could see our loved ones again.

The Prime Minister said he was setting out a road map – but if we’re to complete the journey safely, a roadmap needs clear directions. So many of us have questions that need answering.

  • How can we be sure our workplaces are now safe to return to?
  • How can we get to work safely if we need public transport to do so?
  • How can millions of people go back to work while balancing childcare and caring responsibilities?
  • How do our police enforce these rules?
  • And why are some parts of the United Kingdom now on a different path to others?

For as long as this crisis persists, I’ll keep demanding answers to these questions because that’s how we get better decisions and better outcomes. I remain committed to working constructively with the government in the national interest.

And when this is over, and one day it will be, I’m determined we will build a better society. Because after all this, all the sacrifice and the loss, we can’t go back to business as usual.

We can’t go back to a society where we clap our carers once a week but where half of our care workers are paid less than the real living wage. We can’t go back to a society where we pay tribute to the heroes of the Second World War, but see our care homes as an afterthought. And we can’t go back to a country where we don’t invest in our public services, but expect our frontline workers to protect us.

When we get through this, it will be because of the hard work and the bravery of every key worker as they took on this virus and kept our country going. In their courage and their sacrifice and their bravery, we can see a better future.

This crisis has brought out the resilience and the human spirit in all of us. We must go forward with a vision of a better society built on that resilience and built on that human spirit.

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