Keir Starmer has taken a bold step; and history will judge it the right one.
Keir Starmer, architect of constructive opposition, called a press conference today, set out the facts, and called on the PM to initiate a 2–3 week circuit breaker lockdown in England. This, in order to get the virus back under control, put Test Track and Trace in *local* public hands, and put proper systems in place in order to manage the virus. He was clear; this wasn’t inevitable, but now it’s necessary. I for one, breathed a sign of relief.
Keir Starmer did the right thing for the country. Opposition can shape policy if it wins the arguments, and making the case for a circuit breaker and pointing out the government’s ineptitude (without jeopardising public health guidance) will dial up the pressure on Boris Johnson to think carefully about making the same errors he did in March.
Keir Starmer also did the right thing for his party (and mine); the public has got to a point where they’re listening, and don’t hear answers from Labour, just criticism. Tonight, setting out a clear alternative proposal, there is now a clear answer for “well, what would you do?”.
Overall, this was the exact policy I pushed for yesterday, I wholeheartedly agree with it, and the logic behind it. The cost will be far greater for dithering yet more. How this conference played with the public, and how it’ll affect government policy remains very much to be seen. A canny move on the part of the opposition is the fact they’ve removed the burden of libertarian Tory instincts, by guaranteeing Johnson the votes he needs to pass lockdown measures through the commons in the event of a backbench rebellion.
Mr Starmer needs to build on this. We need to see Labour take a leaf from the Socialist Campaign Group’s book, their secretary Richard Burgon has called for a Zero Covid strategy, which is entirely the right solution. Calling for such a policy needs to be seriously considered by the Labour frontbench.
As long as there isn’t needless sniping, the public is listening, and Labour have the political breathing space to make proposals. Otherwise, the risk is very real of them being given 50% of the blame for a farce entirely created by the government, something they need to avoid at all costs. We don’t want to hear in 2024 as we survey the wreckage of Johnson’s incompetence “well, they supported us at the time”. There’s a leadership vacuum which Starmer could fill here.
Be bold here, Labour, or forever hold your piece.