Keir Starmer has announced that Labour will support the relaxation of ‘plan B’ measures – “as long as the science says that it is safe” – and has called on Boris Johnson to release the scientific evidence behind the government’s decision.
Addressing parliament following a Covid statement from the Prime Minister today, the Labour leader argued that transparency over the policy change is needed to “reassure the public that he is acting to secure their health, not just his job”.
Starmer insisted that Labour “does not want to see restrictions in place any longer than necessary” but warned that the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues had been distracted from the pandemic amid the turmoil caused by the numerous allegations that Johnson and others repeatedly breached Covid laws.
“They’re all too busy plotting their leadership campaigns to keep the public safe. While the Conservative Party tear themselves apart, jostling for position, looking inward, the Labour Party is focused on the national interest – filling their void. We have a plan but the Prime Minister doesn’t,” Starmer said.
He said Labour would recruit a “reserve army” of vaccination volunteers, build a supply of test kits in Britain, raise statutory sick pay and make all workers eligible, keep schools open by improving ventilation, produce a “roadmap for decision making to ensure efficient action” and properly fund the NHS.
Johnson told parliament this afternoon that Plan B measures would be allowed to expire and that from January 27th the requirement for mandatory Covid passes will be removed, as will the mandate for mask wearing from Thursday this week.
The announcement today came amid a time of significant political pressure for the Prime Minister after he apologised last week for attending a social gathering, which breached lockdown rules, in Downing Street during the first lockdown.
Several Conservative colleagues have gone on the record to call for his resignation, and Tory MP Christian Wakeford defected to the Labour Party just minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions. Wakeford was elected in Bury South, which Labour lost to the Tories in 2019.
After having initially denied any knowledge of parties taking place in Downing Street, his place of work and residence, Johnson told journalists on Tuesday that “nobody told me” that the gathering would breach the public health rules.
At least 15 2019 intake Conservative MPs have submitted letters to the 1922 committee, according to The Telegraph this morning. Letters from 15% of the parliamentary Tory Party, or just over 50 MPs, would trigger a leadership election.
“I spent weeks and months defending the Prime Minister,” veteran Tory MP David Davis said today during Prime Minister’s Questions, but told Johnson: “You are sat there too long for all the good you have done. In the name of God, go!”
Starmer also accused Johnson of being “distracted” from addressing the rise in the cost of living, adding: “While Labour was setting out plans to heat home, he was buying a fridge to keep the party wine chilled.
“While we were setting out plans to keep bills down, he was planning parties. And while we’re setting out plans to save jobs for the steel industry, he was trying to save just one job – his own.”