On a Zoom call to Labour members last week, as well as Angela Rayner erasing Labour herstory, Sir Keir Starmer boasted that if he were in Government, the lockdown would have come earlier, with stricter controls.
“I think if you look back, what you would have seen from a Labour government is a willingness to act more clearly and more decisively. So we were saying weeks ago that there should be strict controls, that it was clear that the infection was getting out of control, and that the government need to act more quickly and more decisively. And we would have done that.”
At that actual time Starmer was staying very quiet, and his top team were loudly opposing calls for stricter measures. Here’s Shadow Chancellor Anneleise Dodds disagreeing with Rory Stewart’s call to enact harsher measures on Westminster Hour on 8 March:
“I completely take on board what Rory was saying but I’ve been very very impressed by the world of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor… the problem is if you move immediately into, for example measures like stopping large scale events, that can have unintended consequences because people can then congregate in other areas that are actually even more likely to cause contagion.”
“I feel really strongly about this.”
Dodds went on to support the Government’s plan, and emphasised the need to listen to the scientific advice the Government is receiving.
“I don’t think this is a reflection of passivity, just to make that clear. The Action Plan that the Government has set out, and I mean okay the Government are of a different political persuasion to mine, but they have stated that at some point we will have to shift from the containment stage to the delay stage…
They set out the risks from potentially doing that too early. I’m talking about just medical professionals being involved in this [decision to lock down], it’s also got to be those who understand about the set up of the social care system, of other public services, they need to be part of this decision.”
Dodds was defending the work of SAGE against Rory Stewart’s claim on the program that politicians need to be the ones to take decisions as scientists often have a narrow focus.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the approach that was taken, it’s clear that silent Starmer and Government-supportive Dodds would not have done anything particularly differently to the decisions that the Government made early on. Perhaps this is why Sir Keir is doing PMQs tomorrow with Raab, rather than letting his Shadow Chancellor stand in…