On this day last year, the Prime Minister told us to stay at home. It was also around this time that Boris Johnson told the British public that the country could “turn the tide” on Covid in 12 weeks. 365 days later, few could have predicted that more than 126,000 people would have died and that we would be locked down again. The crisis has worsened existing problems in public health, housing, insecure work, care and food poverty. People from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds have been hit particularly hard. Workers undervalued as ‘unskilled’ for years have been shown to be the heroes they are, but are still under-appreciated and underpaid.
As Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy wrote on LabourList this morning, while we may look back on this period in history as a turning point, “the direction of that turn though is still up for grabs”. Sadly, the government is rewarding most public sector workers with an outright pay freeze and our NHS staff with a real-terms pay cut. And, instead of making it mandatory for our care workers to be paid a living wage, the Tories are instead just focusing on making their vaccination compulsory. Following reports overnight of a leaked paper showing that the PM and Health Secretary requested a change to the law, Matt Hancock said this morning that “no decisions have been taken” but argued there is a “clear precedent”.
Today is being marked as a ‘national day of remembrance’ and the country will observe a minute’s silence at midday to remember those who have died in the pandemic. The PM has released a statement, telling people: “The last 12 months have taken a huge toll on us all, and I offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones.” He will hold a Covid press conference this evening. “As we mark one year since our country entered the first lockdown, my thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones since the pandemic began,” Keir Starmer tweeted this morning. And our thoughts here at LabourList are also with founder and former editor Derek Draper, who was hospitalised last year and is still battling the effects of the virus.
Nicola Sturgeon was yesterday found not to have breached the ministerial code in an inquiry. But a separate report into the handling of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond published today concluded the First Minister misled a Scottish parliamentary committee. Committee members found a “fundamental contradiction” in her evidence on whether she agreed to intervene in the investigation into complaints by two women against her predecessor. They said they “find it hard to believe” that she had “no knowledge of any concerns about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Salmond prior to November 2017”.
In an annual lecture later today, Anneliese Dodds will call for reform of the Covid loan schemes as she warns that 750,000 businesses and two million jobs are on a “knife edge”. The Shadow Chancellor will accuse Rishi Sunak of leaving businesses “high and dry” by not using the Budget earlier this month to support firms struggling with unsustainable Covid debts. MPs voted down an amendment to the fire safety bill that would have stopped cladding remediation costs being passed onto residents last night, by a majority of 69, as ministers again rejected calls to protect leaseholders. 30 Conservative MPs rebelled to vote in favour – read the full write-up here. Also on LabourList, Labour for a Green New Deal has called on members to back its motion to commit the party to a green jobs revolution. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.