Labour ramps up calls for public inquiry into handling of Covid crisis

Elliot Chappell
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Ministers are scrambling to reassure the public that everything is fine. An NHS England letter emerged yesterday warning of a “significant reduction in weekly supply” of the vaccine from March 29th, meaning that volumes for first doses will be “significantly constrained”. Matt Hancock dismissed anxiety over the “technical letter” and advised that supply is “always lumpy” at a Covid press conference last night. Asked whether the reduction will affect the under-50s getting the jab, Robert Jenrick said this morning that “there will be some delay but not in meeting our target”. Labour has accused ministers of trying to “downplay the legitimate concerns”, and we can expect some pointed questions when the Health Secretary comes to parliament today.

Labour is gearing up on calls for a public inquiry into the handling of Covid. Rachel Reeves has argued it should kick off in June. “We’re supposed to be out of the roadmap by 21st June,” the frontbencher said. “Let’s get ready for it now, and from 21st June this inquiry can really get started and use the summer months where we should be better protected.” She has called for the government to work with bereaved families, explaining this morning that they are “desperate for lessons to be learned”. Jenrick has pushed back on this, indicating that there will not be an inquiry for several months. He said there “will come a time” to look back in hindsight and insisted that ministers are capable of “learning lessons through the pandemic”. A claim many might take issue with – anyone who read the recent report on test and trace, for example.

Labour is fast-tracking the process to get its candidate in place for the Hartlepool by-election following the resignation of Mike Hill and former MP Paul Williams is the favourite. But the accelerated selection has prompted concerns of a stitch-up from the Labour left. Momentum co-chair Gaya Sriskanthan warned the timetable “severely compromises” the chances of local members having a “real democratic choice”. An internal memo will have done nothing to allay those concerns. The leaked email stated: “With a single candidate short list being fairly controversial (and with certain factions in the party certain to try to make a grab or call foul) LOTO require a formal letter from us to the NEC requesting that Paul be our candidate. The left will make a big deal of this and paint the selection as a stitch-up by Starmer.”

Campaigners calling for misogyny to be made a hate crime are celebrating a victory as the government has agreed, “on an experimental basis”, to ask police to record crimes motivated by sex or gender. Labour MP Stella Creasy said she is delighted, arguing the move will help us better understand and prevent such crime while boosting confidence among women to report incidents. She has called on the government to now make sure in its sentencing bill that courts follow suit. The news came after more than 200 Labour women representing London council seats signed an open letter calling for action to tackle violence against women and girls last night. The signatories criticised the violent mishandling of the recent vigil for Sarah Everard, highlighted “the reality of horrific violence” they witness as councillors and made a number of demands for change.

Coming up later today, Mark Drakeford will launch the Welsh Labour campaign for the May election. The Welsh Labour leader is expected to outline six key policy pledges that he will say form the “bedrock of our manifesto and our plan to keep moving Wales forward”. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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