The first Pfizer/BioNTech jab was administered to a 90-year-old woman this morning, marking the start of the roll-out. A historic day in the fight against Covid. But, as we have been reminded by the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock, there is a long way to go. Labour has welcomed the news, with Jonathan Ashworth calling for us to head outside and clap the medical scientists and clinical researchers in the same way we did health and care workers. But the Shadow Health Secretary also urged the government to clarify when residents in care homes will get the vaccine, when new vaccination centres will open and when local GPs will start administering jabs – questions that will surely come to dominate the coming months. The UK is armed with a vaccine, but the crisis is far from over.
The PM and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen yesterday agreed over the phone that the “conditions for finalising an agreement are not there” on post-Brexit trade talks. Differences remain over the ‘level playing field’, governance and fisheries. Boris Johnson is set to pack his bags and head to Brussels this week. Downing Street has not confirmed exactly when but tomorrow looks likely since the European Council is due to hold its final summit of the year on Thursday, at which it will want to sign off any deal. Labour used an urgent parliamentary question yesterday to remind the PM that the country is waiting for that ‘oven-ready’ deal promised last December. Meanwhile, The Guardian has reported that Keir Starmer is expected to whip in favour of backing any deal despite eight members of his shadow cabinet expressing doubts over the party’s strategy.
MPs voted last night to reinsert the controversial sections of the internal market bill, which would allow the UK to unilaterally rewrite parts of the withdrawal agreement and break international law, after they were removed by the Lords last month. The vote took place just hours after the PM offered to remove clauses 44, 45 and 47 at a later date if an agreement with the EU can be reached. But, as Ed Miliband pointed out during the debate, significant reputational damage has already been done. He described the row over the legislation as “embarrassing and toxic” for the UK and argued it was no surprise that the “beginnings of the climbdown” were now happening. He added: “If there is one thing this whole sorry saga has shown the world beyond any doubt, is that with this government their word is not their bond. They cannot be trusted because they are willing to rip up international agreements they made less than a year ago.” The bill will now head back to the Lords.
Janet Daby has issued an apology for her comments on same-sex marriage on Friday, which saw her resign her role as shadow faith minister yesterday. The Telegraph reported on Saturday that Daby had argued there should be a conscience clause to protect people of faith being penalised for objecting to performing certain tasks for religious reasons. Announcing her decision to resign, the Lewisham East MP tweeted: “I’m proud to support same-sex marriages. On Saturday Labour celebrated 15 years of civil partnerships, and all the progress we’ve made since. I sincerely apologise for my misjudged comments on Friday, and have decided to resign as shadow faith minister.”
Labour’s national executive committee yesterday afternoon agreed the draft action plan on tackling antisemitism to be presented to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It comes after Labour was served with an unlawful act notice in late October and given six weeks to produce an action plan in response to the findings of the report by the equality body. LabourList understands that the plan, outlining steps around changing Labour’s procedures and culture, will be submitted this week and implementation will begin once agreed by the EHRC. LabourList has also been told that the party is not allowed to publish the draft as it is not the action plan until it secures EHRC approval. Whether the final approved plan will be released has not yet been decided. Find details of the plan’s content and the NEC meeting in Sienna’s write up. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.