Government ministers including Matt Hancock spent much of the weekend telling us the country isn’t racist while Tory backbenchers called for the government to crack down with “zero tolerance” on the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets across the UK in protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Boris Johnson finally broke his silence on the matter last night. However, he did so only to say that people “have no right to attack the police” and to say the protests have been “subverted by thuggery”. In an iconic moment, the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into the harbour in Bristol – leaving reasonable people to wonder why it wasn’t done sooner, and why it took these demonstrations to get it done.
Meanwhile, as other countries across Europe begin to ease their Covid-19 travel restrictions, the UK has finally introduced some – as of today, new arrivals will need to self-isolate for two weeks or they could face a fine of £1,000. As Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon pointed out over the weekend, the government has swung from one extreme to the other. After months as one of a few countries without any travel restrictions throughout this global crisis, the government has now introduced what Labour has dubbed another “blunt tool”.
The party has called on ministers to bring forward a plan to ease the 14-day quarantine measures. Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has written to the government, urging it to “get to grips with the quarantine confusion” and provide an exit strategy from quarantine. Specifically, the party is calling for a testing process for travellers, with results provided within 48-hours, for people to avoid isolation. The Shadow Home Secretary also called for the publication of the scientific evidence behind decision to introduce the quarantine period, a sector-specific support package to save jobs and industry and a timeline for the introduction of the government’s ‘air bridges’.
We heard from Keir Starmer this morning as he launched his ‘Call Keir’ session on LBC. He said that it was “completely wrong” to pull down the statue of Colston, though it “should have been taken down a long, long time ago”. For more words from the Labour frontbench, stay tuned with LabourList over the coming weeks for some interesting policy discussions with shadow cabinet members. The first is tomorrow at 6 pm with Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Luke Pollard. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.