Boris Johnson has seen sense and finally adopted a sufficiently cautious plan to relax Covid restrictions: this is the prevailing narrative in Westminster. The Prime Minister’s proposed roadmap was so reasonable that Keir Starmer had little to say in response, commentators add. Yes, there are significant pauses between each step towards unlocking the country. Trade unions are worried that the cautious approach does not extend to schools, however, which will be fully reopened at once for all pupils on March 8th rather than via a staggered method. Councillor Jack Abbott has a LabourList piece on why the government should have prioritised blended learning over a ‘big bang’ reopening.
Ministers insist they are following a ‘data not dates’ approach, though the plan features many dates and not very much clarity on the data-based criteria for progressing through the stages. But it is not only timing that we should scrutinise. As Starmer highlighted, why is there not more emphasis from the PM on measures to make schools safe, such as ventilation and bigger classrooms? And as Anneliese Dodds stressed, yet again a big announcement has been made about restrictions without accompanying statements on economic support.
Will Rishi Sunak really wait until his Budget next week before offering clarity on furlough? An official confirmation now that it will be extended is the least people can expect. There is also still the need for those demands that have become Covid classics: more self-isolation support, better sick pay, sick pay for all, more support for the self-employed, addressing the millions who have so far been excluded and will be waiting months longer before they can restart their businesses if that is even possible for them. And those are just the cures for healing existing wounds: what about the preventative measures to address the UK’s looming jobs crisis?
On LabourList today, we have details of Starmer’s speech to the National Farmers’ Union this afternoon. In the first speech by a Labour leader to the NFU conference since 2008, he will call on the government to encourage people to buy more British food, invest in agricultural skills and more. We also have a write-up of yesterday’s hearing in which former senior party staffer Emilie Oldknow made the case that Labour should reveal the identities of those who leaked the internal report last year (the one that led to suspensions, an internal party investigation, the Forde Inquiry, an Information Commissioner’s investigation and legal action). The hearing continues this morning, when we are expecting the judge to reveal her decision on the application.
Don’t forget to join us at 6pm tonight for our latest event with UK in a Changing Europe. I will be chairing a panel with Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP, New Economics Foundation chief executive Miatta Fahnbulleh and UK in a Changing Europe senior fellow Jonathan Portes. You’ll be able to submit questions during the live event. Sign up here. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.