Abstaining on Tier system, right or wrong?

Keir Starmer has done the right thing.

Toby Lipatti-Mesme
2 min readDec 1, 2020

Twice in one week I find myself sticking up for Keir Starmer, first over the Brexit vote conundrum, and now on abstaining on the parliamentary vote for the Tier system.

The approach laid out by the government is fundamentally flawed in key ways. We still don’t have Test Trace Isolate infrastructure in an adequate state, we are taking a regressive stick rather than a progressive carrot approach to compliance which will continue to foster resentment, we’re taking the stance of “divide and rule”, mass testing isn’t widespread, and no one understands the rules.

Labour cannot, in this case, vote against the measures. They’re the only thing being proposed and their obliteration would see no measures enforced whatsoever. A vote against sends a blunt message to the country, and not a particularly good blunt message; becoming something for Labour to be beaten with for months in attack ads if not years.

At the same time, down to lack of economic support, and serious concerns about credibility of the measures and their effectiveness, voting for them is a blank cheque which Labour should hold back unless alterations are made. A vote for continues to make Labour jointly responsible for whatever nightmare ensues next, when they aren’t and wield no power.

Labour is right to abstain, and needs to continue to being clear and concise as to why they are abstaining, as Starmer was last night. They must make the case for an alternative set of proposals in the press conference, encourage the public to obey the law and guidelines at all times, demand more meetings with govt scientists, and table amendments to make the motion more acceptable, such as greater support in Tier 3 areas.

These measures (save an act of God) will pass. There isn’t enough without Labour against to topple them, but the split in the Tories, combined with Labour’s clear position, make this a risk worth taking.

Abstention is often wrong, and a sign of cowardice from an opposition; but here, Starmer is right, and he must rally his party behind him.



Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.