I’m sure by now you will be aware that my Labour colleagues and I abstained on the vote yesterday. I realise you will not agree with my decision, but I thought it would be useful to set out my reasoning for doing so.
The decision to support a second lockdown was not an easy one to make. My Labour colleagues and I pressed the Government to act on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) back in September, but no action was taken. This delay resulted in a lockdown which was longer than it needed to be.
Throughout this crisis, Labour has urged the Government to act responsibly and with speed to take the hard decisions to control the virus. We support necessary measures to protect public health and I believe that our priority to protect lives and livelihoods has been clear.
The previous three-tier system didn’t work, and we ended up in a national lockdown. Nobody wants a repeat of that. That’s why we are calling on the Government to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated, and no area is left behind. We recognise the need for the continuation of tough restrictions to drive down transmission, but the Government must set out how it believes the restrictions will be both effective or fair.
The Government was cavalier when exiting the last lockdown and it is not yet clear whether the new tiers will do enough to get the r rate below 1 or avoid another lockdown in the New Year. The second wave of the virus is also having a disproportionate impact on the North and Midlands and the Government has really let those places down.
The recent news about vaccines gives us all hope, but the Government is not doing enough to get ready for the huge logistical challenge ahead. The Prime Minister must publish a comprehensive national action plan which can meet the Easter target for vaccine roll out, appoint a minister with responsibility and have a communications plan to tackle vaccine hesitancy.