Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: new lockdown ‘could be extended’

Sunday shows round-up: new lockdown 'could be extended'
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove appears on Sky News
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Michael Gove - New lockdown 'could be extended'

Yesterday Boris Johnson announced that England would be entering another lockdown as of this Thursday, which will last for, at the very least, the entirety of November. Sophy Ridge's first guest of the day was the Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who told her that the envisioned end-date of Wednesday 2nd December was subject to change if the rates of Covid infection could not be reduced:

SR: If the data on the whole is not looking as you are hoping, then the national lockdown could be extended?

MG: We will always take a decision in the national interest, based on evidence...

SR: Is that 'yes'?

MG: Yes.

Virus has spread 'faster than predicted'

Ridge confronted Gove with his response to her question two weeks ago about whether the government would be implementing a two week 'circuit breaker' to try and bear down on the coronavirus:

SR: It was a one word answer - 'No'. Why should people trust what you're going to tell them today?

MG: ...At that point the advice that we were receiving was that a regional approach could succeed in reducing the spread of infection... But unfortunately... the virus has been spreading faster than predicted, and in a way that requires... what the Prime Minister has described as the 'nuclear option'.

'Real danger' second wave could be worse than the first

Gove asserted all of the various data modelling available to the government made the bleak forecast that NHS capacity would quickly reach its limit if the national 'Tier 4' lockdown was not imposed:

SR: [This wave] could be worse than the first wave?

MG: Yes. That is the real danger... The projections that we've seen... all say that without acting, we would see the number of people in hospital exceed that we saw in the first wave... and then NHS capacity [would be] fully occupied... Tackling Covid is absolutely central to making sure that we tackle our broader health problems.

New lockdown is not a failure of government strategy

Gove also denied the claim that the government should have pursued a different course in order to stave off the impending 'Lockdown 2', putting personal freedoms at the heart of his defence:

SR: [This] represents a failure of the government's strategy so far doesn't it?

MG: No, I don't think so... All governments - this government particularly - believe in liberty, do not want to restrict people's freedoms... This is a protective step that we need to take that nobody relishes... but we feel that there is no alternative.

We are 'absolutely' committed to keeping schools open

Gove also went on to join Andrew Marr, who asked him about schools remaining open throughout the new lockdown, representing one of the few key changes between now and then:

AM: Are you absolutely committed to keeping schools open whatever happens?

MG: Yes, absolutely.

AM: Even if the virus is progressing very fast in schools...?

MG: ...all the evidence suggests that schools are no a centre of infection and schools are safe.

I don't know who leaked lockdown plans

The chief reason that the Prime Minister made his lockdown statement yesterday from Downing Street - and not in the Commons on Monday as planned - is because the plans were leaked after a key meeting between Johnson, Gove, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Gove told Marr that an inquiry was underway:

AM: Was it you?

MG: No... We don't know how that information found itself in the hands of others.

AM: ...Should [the leaker] be sacked for it?

MG: It is for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary to decide what the appropriate steps are.

Keir Starmer - We should stay in lockdown until 'R' rate is below 1

Marr was also joined by the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Starmer quickly confirmed that he would be voting for the government's emergency measures this week. Going against his party's previous approach to a national 'circuit breaker', which Labour had called to be strictly time limited, Starmer said that the latest lockdown should last for as long as was needed to control the virus:

KS: I think we need to stay in the lockdown until the infection rate is below '1'... I also say that when we come out of lockdown... it needs to be a much more controlled exit... But I don't know that it's possible to get the 'R' rate below 1 if your test, trace and isolate [programme] isn't working, so that has got to be fixed. 

I'm sure Mark Drakeford would extend Welsh lockdown

Starmer told Marr that he believed that the government should have sought to place the whole of the UK into the new lockdown and not just England, with the four different nations all exercising different forms of restrictions. Marr asked if Starmer would call on Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford to roll Wales's 'firebreaker' lockdown into the UK government's new one:

AM: Should this not be a UK wide lockdown?

KS: Ideally, yes. I've said for months... that it should be a four nations approach if possible... It's for the Prime Minister to lead on that...

AM: ...Will you therefore ask Mark Drakeford to extend the Welsh lockdown?

KS: ...I'm sure he'd be up for that if the Prime Minister called him this afternoon.

Jeremy Corbyn should 'reflect' on his anti-Semitism response

This Thursday, the previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from the party. Corbyn is now facing an investigation after his reaction to the publication of the EHRC report into Labour's handling of anti-Semitism complaints. The report found Labour to have breached the 2010 Equality Act. Marr asked Starmer for his take on the incident:

KS: Those that deny or minimise anti-Semitism in the Labour party, and say it's just exaggerated or part of a factional fight, are part of the problem. I was therefore very disappointed in Jeremy's response, where he appeared to suggest it was exaggerated, and I would invite Jeremy just to reflect on what he said Thursday.

David Miliband - Corbyn 'essentially suspended himself'

However, the former Foreign Secretary David Miliband was a lot more forthright in expressing an opinion on the now independent MP for Islington North:

SR: Is it right that Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended?

DM: Yes, definitely. Jeremy Corbyn's response showed all of the blindness, all of the arrogance, all of the sticking your fingers in your ears, that we'd seen in his time as leader. And essentially, he suspended himself from the Labour party... I think he put himself beyond the pale.

Corbyn 'was never going to get elected as Prime Minister'

Miliband also delivered a damning verdict on Corbyn's leadership more generally:

DM: The truth about the Jeremy Corbyn leadership is that he was never going to be elected as Prime Minister... One of the problems of his leadership was the sectarianism he applied to it... [And] if you have a candidate, like Jeremy Corbyn, who repels voters, you've got no chance of being able to put your values into practice.

Carolyn Fairbairn - The PM's relationship with business 'could be a lot better'

And finally, the Director-General of the CBI Dame Carolyn Fairbairn told Ridge that after a turbulent few years, which have seen the Conservative government often out of step with the desires of business, Boris Johnson now had a chance to heal the divide:

CF: I think [the relationship] could be a lot better, I really do. I think this a moment where people really want to see different part of our country pull together... The public really want to see that, and I think the Prime Minister has an opportunity to stand for that.