Keir Starmer has declared that “we need a ‘Plan B’ for the economy” alongside new Covid restrictions as “it makes no sense to bring in new restrictions at the same time as phasing out support for jobs and businesses”.
In a pre-recorded address to the nation this evening, the Labour leader said the new measures introduced by the government this week to suppress transmission of the virus were “now necessary” but “not inevitable”.
He described the Covid briefing delivered by the government’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty earlier this week as “stark and clear”, and the opposition leader urged people to “follow the new guidance and the rule of law”.
Responding to Boris Johnson’s own coronavirus statement on Tuesday evening, Starmer told viewers tonight: “The return of this virus, and the return of restrictions, are not an act of God. They’re a failure of government.
“The British people have done everything asked of them. But I’m afraid the government has not. We’re a great country. We shouldn’t have one of the highest death rates in the world, or one of the worst recessions.
“It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works. Or a plan to protect our care homes. It shouldn’t be like this.”
Starmer’s intervention this evening followed his contribution in parliament on Tuesday and Prime Minister’s Questions earlier today, in which he criticised a “complete absence” of economic support unveiled alongside the rules.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today announced that there will be no autumn Budget, but he will instead give an update on Thursday about the government’s “plans to continue protecting jobs through the winter”.
Below is the text of the statement delivered by the Labour leader this evening.
Good evening. When I was elected Leader of the Labour Party I said I would always act in the national interest. That’s why, as the nation continues to fight against this dreadful virus, my priority will always be the same as yours to save lives and protect our NHS. Sadly, despite all the sacrifices and heroism of the British people, it’s clear we are not through this yet.
The picture presented by the government’s medical advisers this week was stark and clear. Infections are rising. Hospital admissions are increasing. And we know from bitter experience where that could lead. That’s why the government had to introduce further restrictions last night. We support this. And I urge everyone to follow the new guidance and the rule of law.
While these restrictions are now necessary. They were not inevitable. The return of this virus, and the return of restrictions, are not an act of God. They’re a failure of government. The British people have done everything asked of them. But I’m afraid the government has not. We’re a great country. We shouldn’t have one of the highest death rates in the world, or one of the worst recessions. It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works. Or a plan to protect our care homes.
It shouldn’t be like this. People shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get a test for their child for themselves or for their relatives. And we should be able to give our older people the dignity, security and respect they deserve. The government needs to fix testing. Fast. Because that’s the only we can get control of the virus. And prevent further restrictions.
And we also need a ‘Plan B’ for the economy too. Because it makes no sense to bring in new restrictions at the same time as phasing out support for jobs and businesses. There was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement last night to protect people’s jobs, businesses or our town centres and high streets. No clarity about what happens when the furlough scheme ends. That’s a huge gap. It’s a huge mistake. And it could lead to a wave of job losses this winter.
We need a national effort to protect jobs and prevent a second lockdown. So I’ve offered to work with Prime Minister to do whatever we can to save lives and livelihoods. That offer remains open. My door is always open. The weeks and months ahead will be difficult. And I know there is real frustration and anger at the mistakes that the government has made in the last few months. But, we will get through this.
The darkness will lift. A better future is possible for our country. A country built on the values that have held us together during this pandemic. Decency, fairness, opportunity, compassion and security. A future where Britain is everything it can be. The best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in. That’s the future I want for my children and for my country. That’s why I do this. Together, we can build it.