Jonathan Ashworth: Second lockdown 'should have come sooner'

2 November 2020, 08:37 | Updated: 2 November 2020, 08:53

By Maddie Goodfellow

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has told LBC the second lockdown for England 'should have come much sooner' as the country heads towards tough new restrictions.

The Prime Minister is set to use a statement to the Commons on Monday afternoon to defend imposing a four-week shutdown from Thursday.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC, Mr Ashworth said he was "saddened" by the prospect of lockdown, but said it was "inevitable" this would happen.

"I'm saddened because of course no one wants a long lockdown but it was inevitable this would happen," he said.

"This is why I am so frustrated that Boris Johnson didn't follow the advice of his scientists back in September.

"We offered to work with the government for the national interest and introduce a lockdown over the school half term but he ridiculed us and sent out his MPs to say it would be disastrous and would never happen, and yet here we are."

The Prime Minister was forced to announce the new lockdown at a hastily arranged press conference in Downing Street on Saturday night after details were leaked to newspapers.

And in a speech to parliament today, Mr Johnson will seek to justify his decision to first impose localised restrictions, despite calls from scientists and Labour several weeks ago which went ignored for a national “circuit-breaker” to stem the rising number of cases.

He is expected to say it was “right to try every possible option” before imposing stringent national restrictions, which will come into force on Thursday.

Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will shut along with the entertainment and leisure sectors. Schools, colleges, universities and industries that cannot work from home can stay open.

The public “must stay at home” from Thursday, Boris Johnson said, but exercise, trips to supermarkets and for other essential reasons such as work and education are permitted.

Commenting on the PM's decision to try other options before imposing a lockdown, Mr Ashworth said: "He should have done it sooner, hospital beds are now filling up and more and more people are dying.

"We are where we are, we will support and vote for these measures, I just wish he had done it sooner, I wish he wasn't slow again like he was back in March."

When asked by Nick is enough had been done to prepare the NHS for a second wave, Mr Ashworth said he's "not sure the government have done enough".

"We need to stop the NHS getting overwhelmed, and right now it still doesn't have enough beds or staff.

"For example, questions are cropping up again about whether staff have enough PPE. I thought we'd solved that, but I'm hearing concerning stories about lack of PPE.

"We don't want to go through that again."

When asked what the government need to do during this lockdown, Mr Ashworth said: "The government should use this for weeks to fix Test and Trace, give the NHS the resources it needs for winter and roll out new testing techniques.

"When we come out of this lockdown we need to be reassured that there is a plan in place to keep us safe until a vaccine becomes available."

It comes amid speculation that Boris Johnson faces a major rebellion from his backbenches over the new national lockdown restrictions for England amid warnings that the measures would be “disastrous” for the economy.

The Commons will debate the Government’s shutdown to control the spread of coronavirus this week, with a vote expected on Wednesday, but some Conservative MPs have suggested they could vote against them.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbenchers, warned more than 80 Tory MPs could revolt against the new shutdown - mirroring the rebellion over sweeping Coronavirus Act powers last month.