Sunday shows: PM urges public to “behave fearlessly but with common sense”

The Andrew Marr Show

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the British public to “behave fearlessly but with common sense”. He said “I know people are furious with me” but warned that “it’s going to continue to be bumpy through Christmas”.

  • On the dilemma for government during Covid: “On the one hand, we have the imperative to save life. And it is a moral imperative to save life if possible. On the other hand, we have to keep our economy moving and keep our society going. That’s the balance we’re trying to strike.”
  • On following the rules: “What we want people to do is to behave fearlessly but with common sense. To follow the guidance, whether national or local. Get the virus down but allow us as a country to continue with our priorities.”
  • On the message of Tory conference: “We’re not going to allow ourselves in any way to be deterred by coronavirus. We’re accelerating our programme for national renewal.”
  • On why areas in local lockdown have seen infection rates go up, not down: “Clearly we’ve seen more load back on to the risk factor, we’ve got schools back, businesses back… But we’ve also managed to keep hospital admissions much lower than they were, the death rate down.”
  • He added: “I appreciate the fatigue that people are experiencing… I know people are furious with me and with the government. But I’ve got to tell you in all candour: it’s going to continue to be bumpy through Christmas. It may even be bumpy beyond. But this is the only way to do it.”
  • On the inconsistency of rules in the North: “I totally understand people’s frustration.”
  • On critics of the government’s handling of Covid: “We haven’t had any alternative suggestions. No-one has come up with any better proposals.”
  • On whether Eat Out to Help Out was a good idea: “I think it was right to reopen the economy… In so far as that scheme helped to spread the virus, we need to counteract that with the discipline and the measures.”
  • On why test and trace is not delivering as promised: “Actually track and trace have done an outstanding job… I’m not going to claim the service is perfect because it isn’t.”
  • Pressed on why it is not delivering: “The answer is that the demand has massively increased… We’ve got 300,000 tests being conducted every day – that’s the capacity, I should say… It’s not perfect. Am I frustrated with it? Yes, of course I’m frustrated with it.”
  • Asked whether he could provide ‘more reality and less rhetoric’: “This is a pandemic in which people need to understand there is hope. And there is hope. We’ll get through this, and we’ll get through this very well.”
  • On the idea that the country could be under yo-yo restrictions for years to come: “No, I don’t think that’s going to happen. If you talk to the scientists, they’re all virtually unanimous that by the spring things will be radically different.”
  • On Tory criticism of Covid rules: “I don’t want to have to impose measures like this. Are you crazy?”
  • On Drumpf contracting Covid: “I’m sure President Drumpf is going to be fine. He has the best possible care. The most important thing to do is follow his doctor’s advice.”
  • On whether he has Long Covid: “Not in my case. It’s not tittle-tattle, it’s drivel. It’s not tittle-tattle, it’s balderdash and nonsense.”
  • On the effects of no deal with the EU during Covid: “I don’t want the Australian WTO-type outcome particularly, but we can more than live with it.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth referred to local restrictions as a “Tory Red Wall lockdown”. He called for clarity on Covid rules, for local control over test and trace and for evidence justifying the 10pm hospitality curfew.

  • On Labour’s change of tone on Covid rules: “We want the government to succeed. We all have an interest in defeating this virus. But when you’ve got millions of people across the North and Midlands living under some form of restrictions – a Northern or Midlands lockdown, perhaps even a Tory Red Wall lockdown… We need a plan for those areas in lockdown.”
  • Responding to the statement that Labour has always supported the government: “Let me take issue with what you’ve just said there. We’ve always said, if national restrictions are necessary, we support them… We understand why local restrictions may be needed but I think it’s Andy Burnham who’s been saying it’s a bit like Hotel California – places go into these restrictions, you check in but you can never leave.”
  • Asked whether Labour supports local restrictions: “We support local restrictions but what people want is clarity. The rules seem to chop and change all over the place… But there’s the key. The local authorities should have control over the testing and tracing system. The Serco call centre is simply not working.”
  • On whether there is “political interference” in lockdowns: “Because there are no clear guidelines as to why an area goes into restrictions and how an area goes out, there is a suspicion that there is political interference. I hope there isn’t.”
  • On why Keir Starmer called for school returns if the resulting spike was inevitable: “Within this you’ve always got to manage different risks… Yes, you need to get children into school but you should have built a testing capacity and capability in recognition that 10 million people going back to school would put increased demand on the testing system. The government failed to do that.”
  • On the 10pm hospitality curfew: “The government has still not published the public health evidence as to why they think it’s an important intervention.”
  • Why did you support it then? “We support national restrictions. But given the implications… I think the government has to explain what the evidence is.” He said Labour wants staggered closing times.
  • On whether Jeremy Corbyn should have been prosecuted and fined for breaking the rule of six: “That’s up to the authorities.”

Shadow minister Bill Esterson criticised the different interview styles used for Johnson and Ashworth, tweeting: “Marr interrupted Jonathan from start to finish. Johnson was allowed to make long, rambling statements without being challenged about his failure to answer.”

Shadow health minister Alex Norris said: “Boris Johnson had the chance to map out a serious strategy to improve public confidence in the government’s handling of this crisis. Instead he waffled and ducked every question. His serial incompetence is holding Britain back.”

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray called for SNP MP Margaret Ferrier to stand down after she broke Covid-19 rules. He also said of the MPs who quit Labour to form ‘The Independent Group’ that “history will show they did it for the right reasons”.

  • On Margaret Ferrier: “I think she should resign as an MP… For a member of parliament to break the rules in such a negligent and haphazardly way, putting the lives and the health of workers at risk, people who work on trains and in parliament, is really unforgivable.”
  • On whether a win for the SNP in the May 2021 elections would provide a mandate for a second referendum: “I think these hypothetical questions are something we should be putting on the back-burner during this global pandemic.”
  • On Labour’s indryref2 stance: “Keir Starmer has gone into the the leadership of the Labour Party with some new leadership and said quite clearly he wants to be leader of the whole of the United Kingdom in 2024, he wants to make sure that Scotland isn’t independent and he doesn’t want a second independence referendum. So those are pretty clear positions.”
  • He added: “This isn’t a fight for the Labour Party to have. We won’t be in power in Westminster come May 2021 unless there’s some form of general election before then and I doubt that will happen.”
  • On the Scottish people’s priorities: “In the recent last two polls actually, a second independence referendum just made it into the top ten, when you add those who desperately wanted one to those that desperately didn’t want one, so it’s not the priority of the Scottish people.”
  • On the recent rise in cases this weekend: “I think the government have messed it up. They’ve wasted the summer. It’s quite clear test and trace isn’t working properly.”
  • On the claim that a rise in cases yesterday resulted from a technical error: “The testing system is collapsing and indeed it may have been a technical error but it’s just another error layered on top of all the other problems with test and trace.”
  • On the revelations that he was set to quit Labour last year: “I think I made the correct decision to stay and I think over that period of time many people in the Labour Party, whether it be the Parliamentary Labour Party or ordinary members, looked very seriously at whether the Labour Party still held the values that they held.”
  • On those who did leave: “I’m disappointed some people in the end did leave and history will show they did it for the right reasons… I made the decision to stay and I’m very glad that I did.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis struck a different tone to the Prime Minister, who yesterday blamed the rise in Covid cases in part on a “fraying of discipline” among the public, stressing that the “majority of people are following the rules”. He argued it was unfair to compare the actions of Margaret Ferrier to Dominic Cummings as what the PM’s adviser did “wasn’t on the same scale”.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross discussed his speech to party conference this weekend, which urged Tories to focus more on the union. He told the programme the speech was a “wake up call to the party” and that certain members of the Conservatives “need to remember Scotland has two governments”.

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