Politics

Starmer puts UK at risk of third lockdown as he leaves Tories to fight over Covid rules

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The Labour leader announced on Monday his party will abstain in Tuesday’s Commons vote as it would not be in the national interest to vote down the coronavirus measures at a time when the virus continued to represent a “significant risk”. The Prime Minister will be left hoping enough Tory MPs will support him, but a substantial number of his colleagues have already expressed their concerns. 

Addressing the issue on Channel 4 News, political editor Gary Gibbon said: “The Prime Minister knows he’s got quite a sizeable rebellion on his hands potentially with the vote on the tier structure.

“He’s been trying to woo those rebels over the last few days and there’s talk of more money for hospitality in addition to the grants that are out there.

“And he’s also reassured them, he hopes, in a letter over the weekend that the tier structure would come to an end and there will be a chance for Parliament to vote on it again and it would all end at the beginning of February if Parliament wanted.

“None of this seems to be working with the rebels.”

Commenting on Labour’s plan to abstain in the vote, he added: “You’ll have a situation where, by the look of it, an awful lot of MPs, perhaps just about virtually everyone except for the Conservatives, will stand back from the vote leaving the Conservatives to fight it out among themselves, blue on blue.”

READ MORE: Pubs to be given £40m lifeline as Boris scrambles to save tier rules

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned Conservative MPs threatening to rebel against new coronavirus restrictions that backing them is key in avoiding a third national lockdown.

His plea came as Boris Johnson said on Monday it would be wrong to “take our foot off the throat of the beast” now, with up to 100 Tories unhappy about the tiered approach for England.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that “lots of people think that they are in the wrong tier” but insisted the measures set to come into force on Wednesday are needed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The latest warnings came as the Government acknowledged in its impact assessment that the new controls will have a “significant” impact on the economy but said that allowing the disease to run unchecked would be “much worse” for public health.

A failure to maintain strong controls would lead to the NHS being overwhelmed and result in an “intolerable” loss of life, the analysis published ahead of a crunch Commons vote on the restrictions on Tuesday added.

Mr Hancock said that “we’ve got this virus back under control” thanks to the lockdown but that “while we can let up a little, we can’t afford to let up a lot”.

And the Cabinet minister directly appealed to Tory backbenchers who may oppose the restrictions that will see 99 percent of England facing major restrictions on hospitality and mixing with other households.

Asked during a Downing Street press conference if Conservatives thinking of rebelling are acting irresponsibly, he said: “I would urge all MPs right across the House to vote for the tiered system.

“The tiered system has a lower set of restrictions than the national lockdown in all three tiers.

“Unfortunately though, we do have to have the higher tier restrictions – and in particular Tier 3 restrictions – in place so that we can have confidence that we can keep getting this virus down, and then keep it under control right across the country.

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“And that way, it is the best way to avoid a third lockdown. And it is the most proportionate way to take the action that we need to keep people safe, and to stop the NHS being overwhelmed.”

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour still had “serious misgivings” about the Government’s plans but he accepted that some restrictions were still needed.

“We will not be voting them down tomorrow. That would not be in the national interest. I think to vote down this scheme would be irresponsible,” he said.

“We will abstain tomorrow and that will mean that the regulations go through.”

The Government has accused Sir Keir Starmer of “playing politics” in the midst of the pandemic after he said Labour will abstain in Tuesday’s Commons vote on new tiered restrictions for England.

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