UK in a race against the clock to track down new coronavirus variants

Elliot Chappell
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A mass operation to find cases of the South African variant is underway as the government frantically tries to stop further transmission of the new strain in the UK. Thousands of residents in a list of postcodes will receive a visit from door-to-door testers. At the same time, the PM is busy denying reports in The Times that he ignored calls to close the borders or introduce mandatory quarantining two weeks ago. Nick Thomas-Symonds has been on the telly this morning impressing the need for a comprehensive hotel quarantine system. “As we see this South African variant here in the UK,” the Shadow Home Secretary said. “It is deeply irresponsible of ministers not to be doing all they possibly can to make sure all the progress we’ve made isn’t put at risk.”

His comments come after Labour forced a parliamentary vote on the issue last night. But Boris Johnson is sticking with his tactic of ignoring opposition day votes, in the same way Theresa May did as PM. As well as ordering his MPs to abstain on the motion calling for enhanced Covid measures at the border, the Tories ducked a vote on protecting leaseholders living with unsafe cladding. Three and a half years on from the Grenfell fire, as many as 11 million people are still living in unsaleable, un-mortgageable, uninsurable and unsafe flats. Last night the Conservatives abstained on a call for steps to remove the dangerous materials more quickly. Secretary of State Robert Jenrick didn’t bother showing up, instead sending a junior minister in his place. It is, as several MPs said, a disgrace.

LabourList yesterday got hold of the results of the Scottish Labour regional list selections that were disclosed to Holyrood candidates and members of the party’s ruling body. These member votes determine in which order the candidates are placed on the eight regional list ballots for the Holyrood elections in May. But ‘zipping’, i.e. alternating candidates by gender with the aim of encouraging women to stand, is also applied. The process has caused controversy because it actually disadvantaged some women this year, with several dropping down the lists and men being relied upon to stand aside to make up for it. Sienna has the full write-up here.

Local government week continues on LabourList. The theme today is Covid, and there is certainly plenty to talk about. As a local councillor, I have seen first-hand the incredible ingenuity shown by council workers and the communities they serve, standing together to protect each other in the pandemic. While Labour is in opposition nationally, the party is in power and helping people on the ground in communities across the country. Anntoinette Bramble, deputy leader of the Local Government Association Labour Group, has written for LabourList on how councils have continued to innovate in the face of adversity this year, after a decade of austerity. Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has penned a piece on homelessness and housing, while Arlene Ainsley has explored transport.

Also to look out for today is our live event this evening – Sienna will be in (remote) conversation with Jessie Joe Jacobs from 5pm. Feel free to send in any questions you might have for the Tees Valley Labour mayoral candidate before tuning in. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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