Katy Balls

Does Keir Starmer really oppose vaccine passports?

Does Keir Starmer really oppose vaccine passports?
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As opposition grows to government plans to introduce vaccine passports, not even the Prime Minister appears keen to defend the proposals. In Monday's press conference, Johnson refused to be drawn into a conversation about the plans and wouldn't even say whether there would be a Commons vote on the policy. However, government figures suggest the proposals will be put to a vote should they be given the green light in government.

So, how will Keir Starmer vote when the time comes? Today Labour have suggested they will oppose the plans for domestic vaccine passports in their current form. A Labour source told Politico they were unlikely to support the plans 'on the basis of what we’ve seen and discussed with ministers'.  At Tuesday's meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, the leadership confirmed that on 'the basis of what we've seen, we would oppose domestic vaccine passports'. On the surface, this appears to – finally – be clear opposition from Labour. However, there are some caveats to consider.

Speaking on a morning media round, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth attempted to clarify his party's position. Ashworth criticised the government's handling of the issue – complaining that the Prime Minister 'couldn't explain his own policy'. He said the idea of requiring vaccine passports to go 'into Next or H&M' is unfair. He said that there was too much confusion and ministers ought to be honest and clarify the policy proposals. However, in terms of the basic idea of Covid status for entry, Ashworth suggested Labour could back passports for entry to mass events such as football matches or nightclubs.

This suggests that Labour do not oppose the idea of vaccine passports full stop – even if Starmer believes they are 'un-British'. Instead, they could be willing to back them in some form. It's possible that once the government clarifies its plans, Starmer will support them if vaccine passport use is limited. That position is some way off the opposition to the very idea of vaccine passports, which is coming from Tory backbenchers and Liberal Democrats.