We’re now five weeks on from Freedom Day, and while cases and deaths have inevitably ticked up over August, the overall picture is – as Guido pointed out earlier this month – far removed from the apocalyptic forecasts lapped up by parts of the media. Deaths are 90% lower than their peak, and daily case rates of around 30,000 pale in comparison to the 100,000-plus projections made by so-called experts in July.
Naturally amongst the chorus of voices predicting doom and gloom was Sir Keir, who warned of “chaos and confusion” after unlocking and called the decision “reckless” in the face of reports that 2 million people a week would soon be asked to self-isolate. Jon Ashworth said the same thing. Now that we’re nearly in September, it’s clear this supposed foresight was way off the mark. Covid makes a fool out of forecasters, and winter may well be difficult, yet the decision to open last month rather than now (or even later) was the right one. Perhaps Captain Hindsight should avoid attempts at foresight…
Yesterday’s excruciating morning media round by Wes Streeting was far from the first time this year Labour has called for something the government’s already explicitly committed itself to. Guido’s looked back over the last month alone and found an astonishing five further examples:
1. 10th January – Starmer called for the recruitment of volunteers to help with vaccinations: “they needed an army of volunteers… What I would do is what I did last week, which is launched a campaign to say where you can volunteer to help with this”
2. 10th January – Called for press conferences on the vaccine roll-out, with Steve Reed telling Sophy Ridge “if the government would give a daily briefing, or they told us how much supply of the vaccine is available, how much of the vaccine has actually been put into people’s arms, and in every part of the country so that we can scrutinise the situation and see what’s going”
3. 10th January – Called for more support for councils, citing the PM’s promise to do “whatever is necessary” to support local authorities – “he needs to make good on that promise”
4. 11th January – Called for families to be protected from council tax rises
5. 11th January – Called for an extension on the eviction ban, “That’s why I’m calling on the Government today to put families first during this lockdown… extending the ban on evictions”
Sir Keir isn’t performing as Captain Hindsight anymore, he’s playing a game of political ‘Simon Says’…
UPDATE 28/01: Make that seven times – Labour is today calling demanding an extension to free school meals during February half term. They should have been listening to the PM’s statement yesterday when he said “As we are extending the period of remote learning beyond the middle of February, I can confirm that the government will prolong arrangements for providing free school meals for those eligible children not in school”.
This morning at 10am the Shadow Education Secretary, Kate “Good Crisis” Green, tweeted her broadcast round making clear she did not think schools should close. Echoing Sir Keir’s position set out last night that he wanted a new lockdown “like November, not March”, with schools open. The Labour leader made clear his position was “I don’t want to call for the closure of schools tomorrow morning and add to the chaos”. This morning, Green added that:
“We don’t think schools should close, we want schools to remain open, the right place for children to be if they can is safely in school.”
Yet, just over an hour after Downing Street announced an 8pm press conference (no doubt to themselves U-turn on Boris’s Sunday morning schools statement), Sir Keir changed his mind and decided that schools should shut after all. Funny that.
Despite a record rebellion on the Tory backbenches last night, Sir Keir’s spineless decision to abstain in yesterday’s tier vote – in addition to the news of the UK’s approval of the world’s first Covid vaccine – put Boris on the front foot at PMQs today. Even with the lack of a proper chamber audience, an energetic Boris peroration slamming Starmer got a decent response in and out of the chamber. “Captain Hindsight is rising rapidly up the ranks to become General Indecision”.
On the day Rishi’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme launched, Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell was straight out of the gates slamming the scheme and telling the Telegraph, “There’s really no point in giving restaurants in Manchester that kind of support… A £10 meal deal is going to do nothing for the very fragile recovery that the hospitality sector in Manchester was experiencing.” Labour HQ even put out a less-than-snazzy graphic against the discount scheme:
Yesterday, however, Powell appeared on BBC Breakfast claiming the move had been “incredibly welcome” to businesses in Manchester and claimed “we [Labour] have been supporting that”.
Guido wonders how many other Labour MPs have been eating out to help out despite publically mocking the announcement at the time…
After Guido first dubbed Sir Keir ‘Captain Hindsight’ back in April, the term has caught on – with the Prime Minister bringing it up in today’s PMQs. The PM knows where to get his news…
It’s an appropriate descriptor. Back in February and March Labour politicians were as one with the Government – rejecting Rory Stewart’s calls for school closures other unprecedented steps. The Tories, Labour, and (unanimously) SAGE all agreed against strict measures being taken. There are some people who can make legitimate arguments that the Government made missteps – namely those who said so at the time. Sir Captain Hindsight is not among them…