Sir Keir Starmer: UK needs to see lockdown 'exit strategy'

15 April 2020, 07:53

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was speaking to LBC
The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was speaking to LBC. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has told LBC his party will support the Government when needed over Covid-19 and not aim to score "party political points."

Speaking to LBC the new leader said he would "do my best to unite us," and his focus would be on winning elections and changing lives.

"It's obvious and right that the lockdown is going to continue," the Labour leader told Nick Ferrari.

Sir Keir was speaking as the prospect of three more weeks of coronavirus lockdown loom, with the Government likely to make an announcement on Thursday as to when restrictions would be eased.

He said the Labour Party will support the Government extending the coronavirus lockdown, "I said, when I became leader of the Labour Party, we would be a constructive Opposition. Where we think the Government is right we will have the courage to say so and support them."

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The Labour leader said he had written to acting Prime Minister Dominic Raab to say if the Government extend the lockdown "they will have our support."

But, Sir Keir also said the nation needed to see the "exit strategy" from the coronavirus lockdown.

He said one of the only ways to retain the trust of the public was to give them some idea of when restrictions would be eased.

He added there would need to be "a lot of planning" with "mass testing and tracing" almost certainly being a part of any lockdown exit strategy.

Ed Miliband supported Sir Keir's remarks. Speaking to LBC's Shelagh Fogarty he said: "We need the exit strategy to be set out by government... people need to know when we're coming out of it and how we're coming out of it... we need to scrutinise it properly.

Labour's call comes as the Government faces mounting pressure to set out how and when it plans to lift the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. No precise strategy has yet been announced.

A Government source said: "Our strategy is focused on saving lives.

"We have been clear that all decisions will be guided by the scientific advice and data.

"Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home in order to protect our NHS and save lives."

The Opposition leader told LBC it was "obvious" to him that the levels of PPE were not where they needed to be. "Those on the frontline," he said, "deserve the equipment they need."

He said the Government needed to be challenged, but the point was "not to score a point."

Revealing Labour have a "shared purpose" with the Government to support the effort to protect and save lives.

"I'm not as confident as I would like to be," Sir Keir said when Nick Ferrari asked him how he felt about the afternoon Downing Street press conferences.

The Labour leader said "it was clear over the weekend" that what the Government said about PPE being where it should "was not matched on the frontline, with reports that it wasn't there."

He reiterated his party was only critical of the Government because "we want them to get this right."