Sunday shows: Labour will back “whatever measures the government takes” on Covid restrictions

The Andrew Marr Show

Keir Starmer appeared on the show this morning. He said Labour will support “whatever measure the government takes” on the pandemic and told viewers that he does not want another “divisive” Scottish independence referendum.

  • Asked if it is time for another lockdown: “I don’t think a lockdown is inevitable but I think it is now more likely because of the near-collapse of testing.”
  • On restrictions and lockdown measures: “Whatever measure the government takes, we will support it.”
  • He added: “I would make daily testing the number one priority and I would reinstate the daily press conferences so we all know what’s going on.”
  • Asked whether he would introduce a lockdown: “I’m not giving you my view on that for this reason… One of the very important things in a pandemic is that there’s clarity of communication.”
  • On supporting the government: “They make a decision, we will follow that and we will reinforce their communications because in the end this is not about party politics.”
  • He added: “I’ve reiterated the government message because I think that is the right thing to do in the national interest. It doesn’t prevent us challenging the government where they’ve got it wrong.”
  • Pressed on whether he wants a lockdown: “I want him [the Prime Minister] to set out in certain terms what he wants to do. I do not want to second guess what he’s doing. I want him to get this right.”
  • On the fine introduced for breaking Covid restrictions: “It is necessary to take measures against the very few people who are frequently and repeatedly breaking the rules.”
  • Asked which sectors he would like to see furlough for: “There are very obvious sectors that need some support: retail, hospitality, tourism. We can identify them.”
  • Asked about the cost: “There’s a cost to not doing it. And the cost is that if otherwise good businesses go under, and jobs are lost, we will have mass unemployment… That is a monetary cost. That is a societal cost.”
  • On national debt: “I accept that because of furlough, I accept that because of the support that we say should continue, that debt will go up. And obviously we’ll have to look at what the state of the finances are at the next election.”
  • On whether Labour could back a universal basic income: “I think we should look at all options. We’re not committed to it.”
  • Asked whether the government should cut spending or raise taxes to pay for Covid: “I don’t think we should raise taxes at the moment… When we know the size of the debt, when we get to 2024, we will be setting out our proposals.”
  • He added: “The idea of saying now, four years out, what the tax regime will be just doesn’t make sense.”
  • Asked whether the Brexit deadline should be extended: “No. The two outstanding issues can be resolved. The Prime Minister said he had an ‘oven-ready deal’. He needs to get on and deliver it.”
  • Asked, if voters back the SNP at the Holyrood elections next year, if the Scottish government will have a mandate for a second independence referendum: “I don’t think that a further divisive referendum is right.”
  • On the government’s arguments on state aid and the EU: “I’m sceptical about this government’s arguments about state aid. If they’re so keen on state aid, get on and use it to support British industries.”

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Labour leader Keir Starmer agreed with the government’s new fines for those who break Covid restrictions, discussed Scottish independence and called on the government to prioritise schoolchildren for tests. 

  • On whether he supports new Covid regulations from the government: “I support that. There are a few people that are breaking the rules and something needs to be done about that. But I have to say that is not going to be the silver bullet.”
  • On the likelihood of another lockdown: “I don’t think a national lockdown is inevitable but I think it is more likely because testing is all over the place.”
  • He added: “The testing regime is all over the place and one of the concerns I have, and a lot of people have, is because the government now effectively lost control of testing they don’t know where the virus is.”
  • On what he would do if he were Prime Minister: “I would apologise, I would make fixing testing my first priority and I think the Prime Minister needs to reinstate the daily briefing, the press briefing, so everybody knows what’s going on.”
  • On testing of children returning to schools: “Prioritise children put them in the same portion as key workers and allow them a test within 24 hours, and results within 24 hours of that.”
  • On the government’s failure to predict the current demand for tests: “It should have been planned for, schools closed down in March. The idea we are in September scratching our heads going I didn’t expect children to get colds, I didn’t expect them to have bugs’ – everybody knew that would happen and I can’t believe we didn’t plan for this.”
  • On a Scottish independence referendum: “I think another independence referendum will be divisive… the Labour Party will be campaigning into the May elections on the economy, on rebuilding the economy, on ensuring our public services are in the right place, on defeating coronavirus.”
  • Asked directly if he was backtracking on a previous promise to consider a referendum if the SNP won a majority in Holyrood in 2021: “I’m frustrated that in the middle of a pandemic we’ve got the SNP talking about independence, we’ve got a Tory Party talking about Brexit.”
  • On whether he valued winning power over principles: “Do I want to win? Of course I want to win. We’ve lost four elections in a row. I didn’t come into politics just to be in opposition.”
  • On being a vegetarian: “I gave up meat as a matter of principle years ago on the basis that eating meat wasn’t the right thing for the body or planet. But I have to say, I miss meat tremendously.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey discussed the need to extend the furlough scheme, arguing the Chancellor was treating UK workers like “second class citizens”. He also shared his thoughts on Starmer’s progress as leader.

  • On extending the furlough: “The clock is ticking. The fact of the matter is that there are millions and millions of workers currently on the job protection scheme and they will be worried, them and their families deeply worried about the future.”
  • On action taken by other countries: “They won’t be having sleepless nights in Germany and France and Spain and Belgium and Holland and Scandinavia because their governments have stepped up to the plate to protect their workers.”
  • He added: “My question to the Chancellor is why should British workers be treated as second class citizens in Europe.”
  • Asked about the costs of an extension and how long it should last: “As long as it takes. Would we sooner see those workers costing the taxpayer £35bn by drawing benefits on the doll?”
  • On unemployment if the furlough scheme isn’t extended: “Germany and France won’t be looking at wastelands in their economy but we’re in danger of becoming a wasteland UK.”
  • Asked about whether he backed Keir Starmer: “I do back Keir now he’s our leader. He’s been competent.”
  • On the party’s “A New Leadership” slogan: “It’s certainly not got my pulses running… it’s a bit meaningless.”
  • He added: “It’s a statement of fact, there is a new leader and that new leader was elected quite overwhelmingly by our membership, including our members, on a ten-point platform that was a radical progressive platform.”
  • On the differences between the party under Jeremy Corbyn and Starmer: “If you look at the left of the party and how they’ve behaved towards Keir, it’s in stark contrast to the way the right-wing of the party behaved towards Corbyn.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the programme that “the nation was facing a tipping point” on coronavirus and “more restrictive measures” may be needed if people do not follow the rules.

He said “everybody should report” people breaking Covid regulations after the government introduced more stringent punishments today and claimed that “nobody could have predicted” the the current level of demand for tests.

Times Radio

Keir Starmer joined Gloria de Piero and Tom Newton Dunn.

  • On Covid: “The government said we want our schools open and we want people back to work. They’re right about that and we back them on that. But their side of the bargain was to have a testing and tracing system up and running that worked and was effective.”
  • On Brexit: “We’ve left the EU. There’s no case for rejoining the EU. Leave/Remain is over and what, therefore, we’re saying to the Prime Minister is, you promised to get a deal… Get on with the job in hand which is handling the pandemic because around kitchen tables, in households up and down the country people are talking about the pandemic. They don’t want to open the old wounds about Brexit.”
  • On the new slogan: “We didn’t just lose the election last December, we’ve lost four in a row. What “A New Leadership” means is a leadership that recognises that we’ve lost four elections in a row and therefore the scale of the task is… to change in light of that and take difficult decisions, acting in the national interest but restore that trust because until we restore trust then we’re not going to get a hearing on any policy issue.”

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