Keir Starmer has called for more drastic measures in a bid to control coronavirus infections. After Sage minutes were published on Monday that revealed the scientists advising the government recommended a two-week lockdown — the so-called 'circuit breaker' approach — Starmer used a press conference this evening to urge the Prime Minister to act.
The Labour leader called for 'a two-to-three week circuit break in England, in line with Sage's recommendation'. Starmer suggested that this could be run 'across half-term to minimise disruption' — and offered Johnson Labour votes to get it through the Commons. His intervention means there is now clear blue water between the government and the opposition’s coronavirus response. In recent weeks, Labour MPs have grown frustrated that Starmer has broadly supported the government even though there have been multiple problems in its handling. Now there is a key dividing line in the response of the two parties.
Following last night's announcement by Boris Johnson that the government would introduce a three-tier system, the polling firm YouGov found that a majority of people back tougher measures. So on the surface at least, this is a low risk stance for Starmer to take. It’s also worth remembering Starmer’s golden rule of opposition politics: only ask for things you believe are actually going to happen. With No. 10 refusing to rule out a circuit breaker over half term anyway, it seems the leader’s office believe a temporary lockdown this year is inevitable — it’s just a case of when.