Politics

Coronavirus: 'Serious mistakes' made, says Starmer


, Sir Keir StarmerImage copyright
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Failure to provide enough protective equipment for frontline workers and delays over testing have been “serious mistakes” in tackling coronavirus, the new Labour leader has said.

Sir Keir Starmer said in an article in the Sunday Times, that ministers took too long to explain why they were “so far behind” on testing.

He also called for a “national vaccine programme” against the virus.

And he said ministers should publish an “exit strategy” to end the lockdown.

The 57-year-old decisively won the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday, defeating Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey in a ballot of party members and other supporters.

Writing in the paper, Sir Keir said: “The Labour Party I lead will do our bit to offer solutions.

“But we will also speak for those who have been ignored; and where we see mistakes we are under a duty to expose them to ensure that they are rectified as soon as possible.”

With the government having promised it will dramatically increase coronavirus testing to 100,000 a day by the end of the month, Sir Keir said its “greater clarity” over testing “should have come sooner”.

“Now the focus must be on making sure the promise of 100,000 tests is delivered and that these tests reach those who need them most, including our frontline NHS staff,” he added.

He also said the UK now needed to be ready to “protect the entire population” from coronavirus as soon as a vaccine becomes available.

“That means building vaccination centres in towns and cities across the country, working with world leaders to guarantee global supply and ensuring key workers and the most vulnerable are at the front of the queue,” he said.

The government must listen to frontline NHS and care workers about the lack of personal protective equipment, he continued.

“We have heard too many stories of staff unable to get the equipment they need to keep them safe or to adequately care for patients”, Sir Keir said.

Ministers should also set out when the social distancing measures might be lifted and their plan for economic recovery to protect the hardest hit, he said.

Sir Keir described coronavirus as a “national emergency” and a “global emergency”.

He said he wants to “see the government succeed” in defeating it, but that, under his leadership, Labour will provide “strong, effective and responsible opposition”.

He added that would not mean “scoring political points or opposing for the sake of opposing”, but “challenging the government and asking difficult questions when it is necessary”.

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Media captionThe new Labour leader recorded a video where he spoke of the “honour” of the post and the effect of coronavirus

Sir Keir spoke to Prime Minister Boris Johnson after his victory and agreed to meet next week to discuss the coronavirus crisis.

The lawyer, who became an MP in 2015, won the Labour leadership contest on the first round of voting, with more than 50% of ballots cast.

Meanwhile, shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has been elected deputy leader, replacing Tom Watson, who stood down as an MP before the election.

In a video message released by the Labour Party, Sir Keir promised to work constructively in opposition and said he hoped Labour “when the time comes can serve our country again – in government”.



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