It had been a good start for Sir Keir as Labour leader since assuming the leadership of the Labour Party from the hopeless Jeremy Corbyn. He’s done much to root out the antisemitic virus which was raging throughout the Labour Party. He has draped himself in the Union Jack and appealed to the Blue Wall. He had largely been a constructive voice on coronavirus and at the beginning certainly wasn’t being “opposition for opposition’s sake”. He has been perceived to be a competent and credible voice. His calm and composure has been welcomed by the British public with his own polling ratings being incredibly high and the Labour Party now neck and neck with the Tories in opinion polling.
However, he has been excused of fence-sitting, being nicknamed Captain Hindsight by the Prime Minister.
His opposition appeared to be becoming more robust threatening to vote against the 10pm curfew, but then subsequently supporting it. He and the Labour Party started getting tetchy at the severity of the local restrictions and even used Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight data of increasing infection rates in these local lockdown areas. Labour MPs in the North West including members of his frontbench team wrote to the government complaining of these new restrictions.
So it was news to me when at his alternative press conference he said he now supports a so-called “circuit breaker lockdowns”, plunging areas such as the south of England and rural counties like Herefordshire and Worcestershire into closing bars and restaurants when the coronavirus has very little prevalence. This approach is now being actively looked at by Mark Drakeford too. Why should Pembrokeshire which is successfully keeping the virus at bay be punished by national measures when we are doing a blinking good job at it?
It is all too convenient for Keir Starmer. Polling on lockdowns is clear- the public supports them, albeit by an increasingly smaller margin as lockdown fatigue sets in. But the scientists now largely do not, beyond the discredited SAGE scientists who have frequently got it wrong. The World Health Organisation is clear- localised approaches and test and trace are the only means to control the virus and prevent social, economic and public health damage. 9,495 medical and public health scientists have signed the Great Barrington Declaration rallying against lockdowns as have 24,982 medical practitioners. The argument of course is that test and trace and local lockdowns have not worked. There’s no evidence to suggest Starmer’s approach will work- this is against a backdrop of Swedes working and playing in freedom and sees their cases and deaths continue to be low.
Starmer, Drakeford and Plaid Cymru cannot explain to us what the endgame is. What happens if rates do not fall in the two to four week period? The original lockdown was supposed to be, by their definition, a “circuit breaker” with a three-week timescale. The reality was very different. What happens if the vaccine isn’t just around the corner? Or if they only provide us with short-term immunity? How many boarded up shops, closed pubs and restaurants, and excess cancer and heart disease deaths are they willing to tolerate? Starmer et al should be saying- we now have to live with this virus. It’s not going away. We need to respect the virus but not shut down life because of it.
Sir Keir Starmer is obviously no Jeremy Corbyn. He seems like a decent and honourable man. His CV attests to that. But his first decisive decision he has taken as Labour leader is clearly a wrong one.