Keir Starmer

Parties at Number 10 Suggest Boris and His Team Thought Covid Restrictions Were Pointless. So Why Did They Impose Them?

I’ve written a comment piece for Mail+ about the recent spate of revelations about Downing Street parties, pointing out that it isn’t just Tory politicians and their staff who’ve been ignoring the Covid restrictions.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it isn’t just Conservative politicians and their senior aides who ignored the restrictions they expected the rest of us to comply with.

A photograph emerged last night of Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Opposition, drinking a beer with Labour staff in a constituency office in Durham when Tier 2 measures were in place. Given that Starmer has consistently called for even tougher Covid restrictions in England – much like those imposed by Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader – this is another example of flagrant hypocrisy.

Mind you, Drakeford himself is no angel. In November of last year he was photographed dancing in a crowded room at a Diwali celebration without a mask, breaking his government’s own rules making them compulsory in all indoor spaces.

And let’s not forget Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London. In October, he berated Boris for not following Drakeford’s lead and imposing a mask mandate and condemned those who refused to voluntarily wear face coverings as ‘selfish’. A few days later he was photographed at a crowded party with Liverpool footballer Mo Salah with no masks in sight.

This begs the question: Why have all these advocates of lockdowns and related restrictions been flagrantly ignoring the rules?

It’s not a straightforward example of ‘do as I say, not what I do’ – something we’ve grown used to from the political class – because these leaders supposedly had a vested interest in following their own rules. After all, weren’t they worried about catching the virus? They told us these measures were for our own protection.

The only explanation I can think of is that they knew some of these rules were pointless. We now know that many of the non-pharmaceutical interventions governments made around the world to try to control successive waves of Covid infections made little or no impact on the overall ebb and flow of each variant. Just look at Sweden, which didn’t impose a lockdown in 2020 and had one of the lowest excess death rates in Europe that year.

More recently, Boris himself proved the doom-mongers of Sage wrong when he ignored their apocalyptic predictions of what would happen if he didn’t impose tighter restrictions – 5,000 deaths a day, said Professor Lockdown. The Omicron variant, like the previous ones, has proved self-limiting and begun to fade without the Government doing much at all.

But this begs another question: If they knew the rules were pointless, why did these political panjandrums advocate for them in the first place? My conspiracy-minded friends will say it’s because they were doing the bidding of an international cabal of rich, powerful men who had a vested interest in locking everyone down, whether because they would benefit financially – hello, Jeff Bezos – or because it helped advance their sinister political agenda known as ‘the Great Reset’. But I think the truth is less exciting.

I believe the reason the Government imposed three lockdowns – and countless restrictions in between – was because it calculated it was better to be seen to be doing something to try to suppress the virus rather than just ‘letting it rip’. Boris must have known over 100,000 Britons would likely die as a result of the pandemic and there was little he could do about that, but at least it would be harder for his political opponents to hang those deaths around his neck if he locked us all in our homes. And the reason his opponents criticised him for not going even further is because they hoped to do precisely that.

The one good thing to emerge from these scandals is that it will make it harder for the political class to play the public for fools again. If senior politicians ever impose another plethora of pointless, incomprehensible restrictions – whether Tory or Labour – I hope we’ll all pay about as much attention to them as they do.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office in December 2020 for Kate Josephs, head of the Government unit responsible for drawing up Covid restrictions. The Telegraph has more.

Keir Starmer Supports Covid Jabs For Kids and Would Vaccinate His Own 12 Year-Old

The Mirror has a scoop this evening: Keir Starmer has come out in support of the Government’s plans to vaccinate healthy 12-15 year-olds and says he’d vaccinate his own 12 year-old.

Keir Starmer has revealed that he would give his 12 year-old son a Covid jab if the vaccine to younger secondary children gets the green light.

The Labour leader said he was in favour of everybody having the vaccine “if they possibly can” to help curb the spread of the virus.

The Government’s top scientific advisers will make the final decision on jabs for the U.K.’s four million 12 to 15 year-olds within days.

Ministers are then expected to “press the button” on the NHS roll-out as quickly as possible to get needles into pupils’ arms.

With millions of secondary school children now back in the classroom in England and Wales, the Government increasingly concerned about a spike in Covid infections in coming weeks.

Ministers have confirmed that parents of 12 to 15 year-olds will be asked for consent before their children are given a Covid jab – although a loophole exists that could mean youngsters have the final say.

In an interview with the Mirror, Mr Starmer said: “Only one of our children falls into that bracket but I am in favour of everybody having the vaccine if they possibly can.

“Therefore if the advice is for that age children to have it, we would follow that advice.”

The Labour leader also urged ministers to speed up the booster process with the elderly given a third jab as soon as possible.

Worth reading in full.

Typical Starmer. Just when you think there’s a glimmer of hope that the Leader of the Opposition might actually, you know, oppose the Government, he rolls over and invites Boris to tickle his tummy.

Keir Starmer Remains on Fence About Whether to Oppose Vaccine Passports

When the Government holds a vote on vaccine passports, the support of the Labour benches will be vital for a victory (presuming that a decent number of Conservative MPs vote “no”). But Keir Starmer has yet to decide whether to back the Government over the introduction of such certification and was “really angry” that an interview he gave to the Telegraph last week foregrounded his criticism of the idea. The Guardian has the story.

Keir Starmer is weighing up whether to support Covid status certificates in a vote within weeks for which he could lend the Government crucial support to pass one of its most controversial coronavirus policies.

The Labour leader has been hesitant to endorse a proposal that would mean people would have to prove they had been vaccinated, had a recent negative test or antibodies from prior infection in order to access venues such as theatres and sports stadiums. …

Labour is trying to keep its options open given that details about the plan are scarce, and will hope that attention remains on the splits within the Conservative party, where more than 40 of Boris Johnson’s backbenchers have branded the idea “divisive and discriminatory” and vowed to oppose it.

But after dozens of prominent Labour backbenchers, including the former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, also pledged to vote against the certificates, Starmer is being forced to decide whether he should give the Government the support it may need.

A Labour source said Starmer’s team was “worried that this issue splits the PLP [parliamentary Labour party] just like it splits the Tory party” and was “really angry” that an interview he gave to the Telegraph last week was headlined on his criticism of the Covid status certificates.

They admitted: “There isn’t really a consensus yet” within the party, though they predicted Labour would probably end up supporting the certificates “but probably not make much of a song and dance about it”.

The “reservations are real”, says another Labour source – but mainly around the “digital infrastructure” of Covid passports, rather than about their implication on liberty.

That’s about as much “opposition” as we can expect from the notional Leader of the Opposition.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Labour has called vaccine passports “discriminatory” and appears to be leaning towards opposing the Government on a Covid ID card scheme. The Guardian has the story.

The Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth, accused the Government of “creating confusion” by not explaining clearly where the documents may be needed, after Boris Johnson confirmed they were being investigated but would not be introduced earlier than mid-May.

“I’m not going to support a policy that, here in my Leicester constituency, if someone wants to go into Next or H&M, they have to produce a vaccination certificate on their phone, on an app,” Ashworth told BBC Breakfast. “I think that’s discriminatory.”

He added it made sense to ask people to get tested before going to events such as a football game, but warned that forcing everyone to carry an “ID card” proving they had been jabbed was not fair.

Worth reading in full.