Sunday shows: Labour criticises new ‘stay alert’ government slogan

Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised government briefings to the media this week and replacing the ‘stay at home’ slogan with one of ‘stay alert’. He discussed what Labour hopes to see announced by the Prime Minister today.

  • On the care sector: “Care homes are really now the epicentre of this awful virus and we’re looking to government to do more for residents and staff who work in our care sector.”
  • On government briefings to the press this week: “I think some of those briefings to newspapers has led to the situation, yesterday and on Friday, of lots of people going to parks to enjoy the sunshine.”
  • On messaging: “The key thing that we actually need is that – because this is a public health crisis where the British public have to adjust their behaviour – we need absolute clarity from the government today.”
  • On the new ‘stay alert’ slogan: “The problem with the slogan that’s been briefed to the newspapers is that people will be looking at it slightly puzzled, questioning: ‘what does it mean to stay alert?'”
  • He added: “I think the ‘stay at home’ message is easily understood and that is the strength and beauty of that message.”
  • Asked if Labour asking for an exit strategy had encouraged people to break lockdown rules: “No, no. I think people were stretching it this weekend because of the confused briefings in newspapers… Keir Starmer was asking for clarity on the government’s strategy.”
  • Asked what Labour is looking for from the government today: “I’m looking for clarity on the testing and tracing infrastructure that will be put in place.”
  • On the tracing strategy: “In the same way we were too slow to get the personal protective equipment, too slow to ramp up the testing, my worry is that we’re going to be slow getting this tracing infrastructure in place.”
  • On the government’s Covid-19 app: “The app just complements the tracing work. We need people on the ground in our communities – finding cases, testing, tracing and then of course we need facilities to isolate people.”
  • On the potential problem of uptake on the app: “Other countries have used apps but a lot of other countries haven’t been able to get the apps downloaded by enough of their population to be successful.”

Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford discussed the relationship between the UK and Welsh governments, describing it as “one of fits and starts”, and said that he expected the PM to take an “incremental approach” to lifting the lockdown.

  • On the new slogan: “If people are not leaving home for an essential purpose, for exercise or to go to work, then people will still be staying at home… Being alert is important but staying at home has not gone away.”
  • On the PM’s announcement today: “I’m broadly expecting that the review of the regulations in England will continue to have that incremental approach to lifting the lockdown rather than anything more dramatic.”
  • On the relationship with No 10: “I’ve described the relationship with the UK government as one of fits and starts. When we do it, when there is engagement it is good and it is helpful, and I wish there could be more of it.”
  • On a four-nation approach to easing lockdown measures: “I think we are stronger when we move together, when we have a fundamentally shared sense of what needs to be done.”
  • On whether Wales could take a different approach on reopening schools: “Well that would be a significant difference, but it’s not an unprecedented one – our school holidays are different in Wales to England now.”
  • He added: “The direction of travel, the wish to begin to be able to use schools for more children and return more children to school – I think that will be a shared ambition.”
  • On whether Wales had prioritised public health over the economy: “What is good for people’s health is good for the economy. I don’t believe in this oppositional idea that you could trade one against the other.”
  • On the measures and economic recovery: “If we do the right think by public health, we will avoid a second peak and the worst thing for our economy would be to have a rapid restart now followed by a rapid clamping down.”


Government minister Robert Jenrick was also on the show. On the new messaging, he said: “Staying at home will still be an important part of the message. But you will be able to go to work, and you will be in time able to do some other activities.”

Asked about reports that a different coronavirus tracing app might be produced amid criticism of the one currently being trialled, he confirmed that the government was “looking at what other countries are doing”. He told Ridge the R rate was between “0.6 and 0.9”.

The Andrew Marr Show

Jonathan Ashworth criticised the new ‘stay alert’ slogan reportedly set to be revealed by the Prime Minister today, and highlighted the need for targeted testing and tracking.

  • Dropped the ‘stay home’ advice in favour of ‘stay alert’: “When you’re dealing with a public health crisis of this nature, you need absolute clarity from government about what the advice is. There is no room for nuance. The problem with the new message is, many people will be puzzled by it.”
  • Asked what he thinks the new message means: “Well, I’m not entirely sure.”
  • Asked whether he takes responsibility for confused messaging as Labour called for an exit plan: “No. There was confused messaging this week with briefings to newspapers… At the same time, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the government what the strategy is for coming weeks. We know we need more testing and tracing infrastructure in place.”
  • On ending the lockdown on a regional basis: “I think there’s a case for targeted testing and tracing regimes.” But added: “When that [regional] approach was attempted in Italy, at the start of their outbreak, lots of essentially middle class people went from Northern Italy to Southern Italy and took the virus with them.”
  • On criticism of Labour’s new housing policy, which would see renters given two years to pay arrears to landlords: “We need to have a debate about how we rebuild our country when we get through this. In the meantime we need to put in place measures to support people to get through this.”

Commenting on the new messaging, Robert Jenrick told Marr that the ‘stay alert’ slogan signalled that people should be washing hands and “respecting others in the workplace”. He disagreed with Ashworth’s view that there is “no room for nuance”.

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