- THE GUARDIAN - Nov 30, 2020 -
Keir Starmer decides to withdraw backing for PM’s coronavirus restrictions
Keir Starmer has decided to break with the government in a vote on Covid restrictions for the first time, while the government is scrambling to contain a Tory rebellion by unveiling a multimillion-pound fund for pubs.
The prime minister is to announce new one-off discretionary funding paid to councils for “wet” pubs and bars which cannot open under the strictest new tier restrictions for England, the Guardian understands.
But Labour is understood to believe that support for the hospitality sector must go further, and will abstain in Tuesday’s Commons vote on the tiers system, which is due to replace lockdown rules from Wednesday and put 99% of the country into tiers 2 and 3. The vote is still expected to pass.
Though Boris Johnson will hope to win around some rebels with the new funding, lockdown-sceptic MPs were expressing anger on Monday night at the publication of an impact assessment of the economic and health costs of the stricter tier system.
The report threw down the gauntlet to Tory MPs, warning that letting the NHS be overwhelmed would be “intolerable for our society”, but concluded it was impossible to know whether the economic impact of the new tiers system would be greater than that of taking no action.
It was criticised by some MPs for being thin and repetitive. Mel Stride, the chair of the Treasury select committee, said he was deeply disappointed by the “rehashed” and “frustrating” analysis. There had been repeated calls for its publication.
Starmer’s move to whip Labour to abstain in Tuesday’s vote will prompt fears in Downing Street that Johnson can no longer count on the opposition’s support for coronavirus measures that have become deeply unpopular with his own MPs. On Monday, the environment secretary, George Eustice, acknowledged that up to 100 MPs could rebel.