Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Coronavirus vaccine ‘still many months off’

Sunday shows round-up: Coronavirus vaccine ‘still many months off’
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John McDonnell - Priti Patel likely 'on the way out'

The Shadow Chancellor joined Sophy Ridge, and the conversation quickly turned to Home Secretary Priti Patel. Yesterday the Home Office's top civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam, accusing Patel of bullying, resigned and announced his intention to sue the government for unfair dismissal. McDonnell suggested an investigation into Patel's conduct, but made clear what he thought the result would be:

JM: [It's] interesting this morning what I hear from No. 10 – that the Prime Minister only has confidence in his cabinet, not specifically Priti Patel. It looks as though she's on the way out.

We need more direction from PM

McDonnell also called for greater leadership from the Prime Minister over the response to halting the spread of coronavirus, especially in chairing emergency meetings in the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBRA):

JM: There needs to be, I think, more direction from the Prime Minister in particular. I was worried about the delay, for example, in setting up the COBRA meetings. There needs to be political leadership of this, more direct.

Matt Hancock - PM has been 'all over this'

Ridge went on to interview the Health Secretary and put McDonnell's argument about leadership directly to him. Hancock defended the Prime Minister's approach so far:

MH: The Prime Minister has been all over this. I have daily calls with him, often more than once a day... I've been chairing... those COBRA meetings across government... The Prime Minister is fully on top of this.

Vaccine 'still many months off'

Hancock told Ridge that the government was investing in attempts to find a vaccine for coronavirus, but that any immediate breakthroughs were currently considered very unlikely:

MH: We've put £40m into trying to find a vaccine, and... improve the treatments for people who do have the disease... The experts say that a vaccine, even accelerated as fast as possible, is still many months off. But [on] the potential for treatments... they are more optimistic.

Distancing measures 'may be necessary'

Hancock also discussed some of the precautionary steps the government may take to tackle the rate of infection with Andrew Marr. Hancock stressed that 'public distancing measures', such as closing schools, suspending mass gatherings and discouraging the use of public transport, were only being considered as part of a worst-case scenario:

MH: The top priority is to keep the public safe, but we also want to minimise the economic and social consequences of this... We will only look at things that epidemiologically, scientifically make sense.

Amélie de Montchalin - Trade deal talks could collapse over fishing

Marr also spoke to France's minister for European affairs about the upcoming discussions on the future relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit. He asked Amélie de Montchalin how crucial the issue of fishing rights would be over the coming months:

AdM: We've linked four subjects. We linked free trade agreement, conditions of competition, governance of the whole deal, and fishing, because we feel that we cannot agree on any of these subjects if we cannot agree on the whole of the four points.

AM: So the whole thing could fall on this?

AdM: Yes.

Richard Burgon - Tony Blair can 'come and learn' from Tony Benn

And finally, Labour's proud 'continuity Corbyn' candidate in the party's deputy leadership race, told Marr that everyone would be free to study at his envisioned 'Tony Benn School of Political Education':

AM: Would [Tony Blair] be welcome to come and talk at the college?

RB: He'd be welcome to come and learn at the college if he liked...

AM: To lecture?

RB: ...The students could interview him if they so wished.