Fallout from Dominic Cummings’ evidence continues. Matt Hancock had the chance to defend himself yesterday against the allegations of dishonesty. In parliament, he insisted that he has been “straight with people” throughout the crisis. But in a press conference later in the day, the Health Secretary told viewers that it “wasn’t possible” to test hospital patients discharged into care homes – somewhat flying in the face of the “protective ring” he claimed was thrown around them. And challenged over whether he told Boris Johnson that hospital patients would not be discharged into care homes without being tested, Hancock notably did not clearly deny the claim. Instead, he told those watching that his “recollection” was that he “committed to delivering that testing, for people going from hospitals to care homes, when I could do it”.
Kwasi Kwarteng defended the Health Secretary this morning. “He has always maintained he wanted to build the testing capacity, he was largely successful in that,” the minister said. “That capacity was built, not perhaps built as quickly as people would have liked, but it’s always easy with the benefit of hindsight.” Challenged over why it took so long to learn that there was no ‘protective ring’, he said “decisions were made in lightning quick time”. He also told BBC Today listeners that “I don’t think quick answers necessarily is the way forward” and insisted that the public Covid inquiry, not due to start until next year, will ensure transparency.
“What we need to do is put what Dominic Cummings said alongside the facts,” Keir Starmer said yesterday. “Families who’ve lost someone are entitled to answers, because bad decisions have consequences and in this case the consequences I’m afraid were unnecessary deaths.” The Labour leader described the evidence given by Cummings as “very serious allegations in relation to the Health Secretary” but added that ultimately “the buck stops” with Boris Johnson and that the claims “paint a picture” that leads to the PM.
Meanwhile, ex-Labour MP George Galloway has announced that he will stand in the Batley and Spen by-election, which will take place on July 1st. “I’m standing against Keir Starmer,” he said. “If Keir Starmer loses this by-election it’s curtains for Keir Starmer.” The concern for the party is obviously that the former Labour MP could split their vote in the not-too-comfortably held seat. Labour won Batley and Spen by 3,525 votes at the last election, a similar size majority to that held by the party in Hartlepool before Labour’s defeat there earlier this month. But as a vocal supporter of Brexit it is possible that Galloway might also end up taking some voters who would have been expected to vote Conservative as well.
On LabourList, Gareth Thomas MP has written on how the proposed demutualisation of Liverpool Victoria is proof that the city still needs reform. Lewisham mayor Damien Egan has argued that Labour must not shy away from supporting refugees and asylum seekers. And TUC policy officer Tim Sharp has explained how “the deal struck between Uber and the GMB shows there is a real opportunity for workers, organised collectively, to push back against a business model that is deeply unbalanced”.
The LabourList team will be taking a brief break until June 7th. Parliament is in recess and we will be back in your inboxes when MPs return. Have a great weekend.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.