UK should move out of lockdown as one, says Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer has said he wants the UK to move out of lockdown “as one”, calling Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to change England’s stay at home message a “mistake”.
The Labour leader was responding to questions about the different approach to the coronavirus pandemic taken by the Welsh Government compared with Westminster, ahead of a virtual Ask Keir meeting with residents in South and North Wales.
Speaking on a video call to reporters on Thursday, Sir Keir said: “I think the response from the Welsh Government has been good and I think they communicated well. They’ve been transparent.
“I don’t want to get drawn into comparison between the Welsh Government which is Labour and UK Government that is Conservative, because I don’t think anybody wants to hear that kind of party political stuff just at the moment.”
But asked about whether the governments in Cardiff and London would continue working together throughout the crisis, he said: “I know that (Welsh First Minister) Mark Drakeford much prefers the four-nation approach where things are done in a co-ordinated way. It’s been one of the main things he’s called for.
“I’m concerned and disappointed that some of that has frayed in the last few days, with messaging and policy moving in different directions. My preference is the same as Mark Drakeford’s, and that is that all four nations move as one.
“We did that going into lockdown, and we should do it coming out of lockdown as fast as it’s possible to do so.”
He added: “I am concerned that there are now going to be differences. There’s a difference of message, that’s not helpful. The stay at home message was clear, that’s the message of the government in Wales, stay alert is now the message in England.
“I don’t think that is as clear. I don’t think having different messages is helpful and it would be far better if the Prime Minister had been able to get all four nations to agree to a plan instead of doing what he did, which was to do a speech on Sunday and try to put the plan together afterwards. I think that was the fundamental mistake here.
“There’s obviously differences in policy now as well, in terms of what people can do outdoors. And the sooner the four-nation consensus can be brought back together the better as far as I’m concerned.”
Sir Keir later took questions from residents of Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales, and Wrexham and Clwyd South in North Wales, as part of a town hall-style meeting called Ask Keir over video conference app.
He told the Bridgend leg of the meeting he was aware of the “huge challenge” the Labour Party has across the United Kingdom, and in particular in Wales, to win back votes lost during the last general election.
Sir Keir said: “It’s the Labour Party that needs to listen. It’s not the quality of our candidates, who are excellent. I don’t feel that people in Wales’s values have changed. I think it’s a trust in the Labour Party issue that we need to address.”