Rishi Sunak’s false choice, Boris Johnson’s non-answer

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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The UK has reported another record-breaking number of coronavirus deaths, for the second day running. A further 1,820 people died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. Boris Johnson described the figure as “appalling” and warned the public that “there will be more to come”. As the vaccine is rolled out across the country, there are hints that the government likes the idea of prioritising key workers in the next phase. But first Labour is calling for a vaccine plan to encourage uptake among Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.

With BAME people most affected by the pandemic, the opposition party says the government should: publish daily data showing the progress of the vaccine rollout across people from different ethnic backgrounds; analyse the impact of pre-existing health inequalities on uneven uptake; adopt a communications strategy that reaches all communities and tackles disinformation. Angela Rayner and Marsha de Cordova, who are leading on these demands, will be hosting a virtual roundtable with Black faith and community leaders in the West Midlands today to discuss the issue in more depth.

Anneliese Dodds will deliver a speech to LSE today, in which she will expand on the argument that Rishi Sunak has called the Covid crisis “wrong time and again” – particularly by presenting a “false choice” between the economy and public health. “This narrative is not only untrue; it is self-defeating,” she will say. The Shadow Chancellor is calling for an “urgent change of mindset in the Treasury”, and for specifics such as better communication of the test and trace support payment and ensuring local authorities can properly support it, as there is currently a postcode lottery and most applications for the £500 are rejected.

On LabourList, we have my review of Prime Minister’s Questions looking at what the session told us about Keir Starmer’s electoral strategy. But it is also worth mentioning one particular question at PMQs yesterday: Tulip Siddiq asked Johnson about the safe return of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose sentence should end in March after five years. Have the Iranian authorities given assurances to the government that her ankle tag will be removed, she will get her passport back and be allowed to fly home? Johnson declined to offer any kind of real answer. As Siddiq says: “Doing “everything he can” better be enough to get her home.” Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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