New coronavirus restrictions have come into force across Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire. As of midnight, households in those areas of the North are not allowed to meet each other indoors – although they can still visit pubs and restaurants while social distancing. There are plenty of details still to be cleared up, and this is yet another of government Covid communications being utterly unclear. For example, can a family in an affected area meet a household from outside the area in their home? Matt Hancock didn’t seem able to answer that question this morning.
The news of these rules affecting four million people emerged after 9pm last night, with further information released at 11.30pm. Is this incompetence, or is it deliberate? This will particularly affect families celebrating Eid, and the last-minute notification was a bit like being told on Christmas Eve that you shouldn’t be meeting with family members the next day, which is difficult to imagine happening. Hancock has insisted that the new lockdown has nothing to do with Eid, but few will believe that the timing is purely coincidental.
Keir Starmer was not impressed by the rushed announcement, calling it a “new low for the government’s communications during this crisis”. But perhaps most importantly, he pointed out that a functioning track and trace system has not been delivered and that those affected by new lockdowns must be supported. Because if one thing is clear, it’s that the government is thinking about how to balance the books – despite borrowing costs hitting record lows, even turning negative – and not prioritising the need to protect jobs as we enter a deep recession.
Labour is launching a new ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ campaign today, which will run throughout August. As set out by the shadow Treasury team’s Dan Carden in a piece for LabourList, the party has a five-point plan to fight for jobs and offer targeted support as the furlough scheme comes to an end. The campaign kicks off with a warning to Rishi Sunak: there are “24 hours to save British jobs” before the first furlough changes come in tomorrow. If the Chancellor refuses to abandon those changes, Anneliese Dodds says this “historic mistake” would lead to a “python-like squeeze on jobs”.
Usdaw’s general secretary Paddy Lillis has explained why this is so crucial to the retail sector in his LabourList piece, and asked exactly the right question: “Why protect jobs through the early stages of the pandemic, just to sacrifice them now?”. Unite’s Steve Turner has written this week about the struggles of UK aerospace and of bus makers. Community’s Roy Rickhuss has highlighted the importance of manufacturing in the coronavirus recovery. The message from the labour movement is crystal clear: if the government ignores the warnings of trade unions at this critical moment, the consequences will be devastating. And they will have been avoidable.
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