Sir Keir Starmer calls for clarity after Boris Johnson's lockdown speech

11 May 2020, 10:38

Keir Starmer: we didn't get clarity from the Prime Minister's address

By Megan White

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he “wishes the government had got their ducks in a row” before Boris Johnson’s speech announcing changes to the lockdown.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari, Sir Keir said “we didn’t get clarity” from the Prime Minister’s Sunday night announcement setting out how we would continue in lockdown.

Mr Johnson announced to the nation a slight easing of current coronavirus lockdown restrictions ahead of facing Parliament on Monday.

Coronavirus lockdown: What changes has Boris Johnson made to restrictions?

In a televised address to the nation from Downing Street on Sunday, the PM announced a phased reopening of non-essential shops and schools in England could potentially begin from June 1.

Mr Johnson also told those who cannot work from home should return to their jobs from Monday, but warnings have been issued over the use of public transport.

But Sir Keir criticised the government’s strategy for being “a bit all over the place” and said you “almost need more clarity coming to this stage than you did before.”

Boris Johnson's coronavirus lockdown speech

He told LBC: “What I think everybody wanted to hear was something that was pretty clear and a sense of all the countries pulling together, and we didn’t get clarity.”

He added: “What I wanted to see was this detail pinned down, because this is a difficult exercise, I accept that, and any government would struggle.

“But you almost need more clarity coming to this stage than you did before.

“Lockdown is clear, it’s pretty straightforward, stay at home.

“Coming out you need real clarity, and it’s a bit all over the place.”

The Government plans to publish a 50-page document in Parliament later today to fill in any gaps left after the Prime Minister's speech.

What would Keir Starmer have done differently?

Sir Keir said the statement “raises as many questions as it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland and Wales pulling in different directions."

Asked what he would have said differently, the Labour leader said: “I think my criticism is that what I’d have liked is the government to have got their ducks in a row before he did the speech.

“The Prime Minister said in his speech that if you fly in from another country you’ll be required to go into quarantine for 14 days or so.

“Now that may be perfectly sensible, but what he didn’t say anything about was what happens if you arrive by boat?

“So immediately you’ve got these problems.

“Of course it’s very difficult to get everything into ten minutes, but the challenge I put up for the Prime Minister ten days ago was really ‘why don’t you seek consensus before you make your announcement?’

“In other words, get everybody on the same page and then actually you’re in a stronger position, and I don’t feel he’s done that.

“Scotland is saying we’re not going to adopt the stay alert message, we’re going to keep with stay home, same with Wales.

“So instead of one message across the whole of the United Kingdom you’ve now got different messages in different places.

“I just don’t think that can be a good thing.”

He added: “I don’t think more than ten minutes was really doable last night, but it’s have you got all your ducks in a row before you make your speech, and I just felt that he hadn’t.

“That’s why it’s unravelling this morning.

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“More detail will come, and we’ll ask questions, we’ll get answers, because in the end what matters more than if we’re scratching our heads this morning is people want clarity – they want to know as the week rolls out what can I actually do?

“It says you can drive to different places now, the question which wasn’t answered last night is to do what?”

After a special constable called into the show, Sir Keir also said the problem for the police is "not so much the powers but the clarity" and thinks they should have been given better advice.

He told Steve, from Surrey: “I fear going forward it’s going to be even more difficult for the police.

“Just to take the example we were discussing, you’re now being told you can drive somewhere, but its not entirely clear what you can do when you get there – how on earth do you police that?

“If you stop someone and they say ‘I genuinely don’t know, I thought I was allowed to drive to do this,’ you’ll have to use your own discretion, but that puts you in a difficult position.

“That’s why clarity I think here would help the police massively.”