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When you ramp London up to Tier 3 along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, you can’t wait for the review originally scheduled for Wednesday to be completed. Matt Hancock has announced that the capital will face the toughest restrictions from tomorrow and that the increase in cases could be linked to a new variant of Covid-19. (There is still no evidence to suggest that this is a cause for concern.) In response, Labor continued to beat the drum to repair the test and trace system by scrapping Serco. But perhaps the most relevant point Jonathan Ashworth made was that the government was “warned” that Tier 2 would not be enough to contain the spread – and in some areas like Kent, Tier 3 is not enough either. Things are not looking good for Boris Johnson’s tier system. But in Wales too, Mark Drakeford has suggested that another lockdown could be due after Christmas.
The dispute over school closings has increased, with Sadiq Khan and some local Labor authorities on the one hand and the government and Labor leadership on the other. The number of cases among 11 to 19 year olds has increased enormously, leading the mayor to call for schools to be closed prematurely and for longer. However, the government has decided to take legal action to force them to stay open. As London council chairman Georgia Gould said, councils like Greenwich do their best and act on public health advice. Labor Frontbencher Rachel Reeves realized this yesterday when she declared that “schools should be the last thing to close”. The party does not want to be accused of taking a relaxed stance on closings.
However, the leadership does not appear to have taken a position by Christmas and the situation is growing increasingly fearful. On file No. 10 rejected proposals to review the proposed relaxation of the rules. After all, the plans have been accepted by all four nations, and Keir Starmer has not questioned the idea of making an exception for Christmas. If people intend to see each other at the end of a really difficult year, wouldn’t it be better not to engage in irregular behavior to make violations more likely in the New Year? That was the logic. But everyone is obviously concerned and ministers are now stressing the importance of “personal responsibility”. Other countries like Germany make completely different decisions.
Andy Burnham and I covered all of these topics and more in our live event last night. The Greater Manchester Mayor believed schools “should have been included in the national lockdown,” suggesting that there is a lot of disruption anyway as students are repeatedly sent home. “If I did this thing now, I’d pretty much have the country in tier two,” he told me, dismissing the five-day Christmas bubbles as “far too risky.” Burnham also put forward big plans for Labor to decentralize in England and believed this was absolutely crucial for the party. He planned “no return to Westminster”, but one day he did not rule it out either and had some big plans for reform ideas in Parliament. Check out my article and video here.
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