Anyone hoping 2022 would be the year Labour finally carve out a consistent position on Covid will already be disappointed. As Mark Drakeford continues to punish Wales with new restrictions – all while demanding the Treasury coughs up for them – Sir Keir was put on the spot by The Telegraph’s Tony Diver this morning on whether he supported Drakeford’s measures, or if he thought they went too far. As expected, Starmer simply dodged the question:
“Obviously each country, each nation, has to try and get the balance right according to the threats and concern as they see it. I think Mark Drakeford has led Wales very well during this pandemic. I have no doubt that’s among the reasons Labour did so well in the elections of last year. I talk to Mark Drakeford all the time, and I know just how seriously he takes those measures.”
The virus doesn’t instantly mutate once it crosses the Welsh border, so either Drakeford’s measures are proportionate, and Starmer’s underplaying England’s need for restrictions, or Wales is fine and Starmer believes Drakeford’s wrong. This morning Sir Keir told the press that his Covid plan for England consists of merely increasing testing and mass vaccinations in children. Not closing nightclubs, bringing back the rule of six, and fining people for travelling to work as his Welsh colleagues think is appropriate…
This is quite the reverse ferret from what his own Shadow Cabinet colleagues were saying just a few weeks ago. On 19th December, Wes Streeting suggested on Sky News that Plan B didn’t go far enough:
“If there’s one thing that our experience in the pandemic tells us, is that actions sooner rather than later means that the strength of the restrictions and the impact on people’s lives and liberties is lowered. So actions sooner rather than later would be better, not worse.”
Ten days later, when it was clear the government was holding firm, Wes had a slight change of heart, saying “After a difficult 2021, people will be relieved to see no new restrictions ahead of the new year“. Except the citizens living in the one country run by his own party, presumably.