WATCH: Government must learn from its mistakes in pandemic, says Starmer

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer has argued that “of course there will be mistakes” in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic but stressed that the “critical question” is whether the government can learn from those mistakes during the crisis.

Discussing the approach pursued by Downing Street throughout the Covid health crisis in a Sky News interview this morning, the Labour leader said it would be “unrealistic” to expect no blunders in its management.

“Of course there are going to be mistakes and I actually forgive the government for some of their mistakes. I think no government would handle this without making mistakes – I think that’s unrealistic,” he said.

“The challenge I put to the government is where you’ve made a mistake, don’t repeat it. And some of the mistakes of the government have been just too slow into decision or pretending problems aren’t there.

“Now, an example would be the five-day mixing over Christmas. I challenged the government to say for heaven’s sake, you know this isn’t going to work. The Prime Minister said ‘no, rubbish – Keir Starmer wants to cancel Christmas’…

“So, of course there will be mistakes. The critical question is do you learn from that and make sure you don’t make them again? But of course there’s mistakes and I don’t expect the government to get through without mistakes.”

Put to him that he, along with the government, had “got it wrong” in maintaining until Monday that schools should remain open, the Labour leader said: “I’ve always been concerned that schools should shut as a last resort.”

Starmer came out in favour of shutting schools on Monday afternoon, after originally demanding a fresh lockdown in England without school closures. The Prime Minister then confirmed at 8pm that schools would close again.

“I was particularly concerned that in some areas of the country before lockdown, some retail was still open – and to make the argument that some retail can be open and takeaway drinks etc but schools are shut I just thought was wrong,” the Labour leader said.

“But it became inevitable. We had called for a lockdown on Sunday. Closing schools was inevitable and we are in that place now.”

Boris Johnson U-turned on the reopening of schools on Monday evening as he told the public that England will enter its third national lockdown to last until at least mid-February in light of rapidly rising Covid cases across the country.

The Prime Minister blamed the new Covid restrictions, which prevent people leaving their homes except for a few “limited reasons”, on the new variant of the virus as the country recorded its highest number of new cases on Monday.

Commenting on the measures unveiled, Starmer welcomed the national lockdown and said Labour would support the restrictions. He emphasised the seriousness of the situation facing the country and urged people to “pull together”.

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