Keir Starmer accused of 'playing politics' over Covid Tiers vote

No10 accuses Keir Starmer of ‘playing politics’ in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic after he orders Labour MPs to ABSTAIN on crucial Tiers vote tonight in order to quell his own backbench mutiny and show up division in the Tory ranks

  • Labour will abstain in Commons vote on whether to adopt new three-tier system 
  • It means the Government is almost certain to win, despite hefty Tory rebellion
  • Also allows Sir Kier to placate his own backbenchers refusing to back scheme 
  • No10: ‘Keir Starmer is playing politics in the middle of a global pandemic’

Sir Keir Starmer was accused of ‘playing politics’ in the middle of the pandemic after he ordered his MPs to sit out a crucial vote tonight on the rules that will replace lockdown.  

Labour will abstain on the Commons vote on whether to adopt the stiffened three-tier system wanted by the Government, a move that will expose Tory fault-lines on the divisive issue.

But the move, revealed late last night, will also allow Sir Keir to quieten a rebellion on his own backbenches.

Some MPs from Northern areas that will be placed in the strictest Tier 3 were furious that the party originally indicated it would vote with the Government.

The abstention means that the Government is almost certain to win the vote, despite a hefty Tory rebellion over the economic threat they believe the tiers pose.

The PM has failed to quell rising fury on his own benches about the draconian restrictions, which will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from tomorrow.

After Sir Kier’s announcement, a No10 spokesman said: ‘This pandemic is one of the biggest challenges facing the country in decades and Labour have decided to abstain on it.

‘While Keir Starmer claims he offers new leadership, it’s clear to all that he actually offers no leadership at all.

‘Keir Starmer is playing politics in the middle of a global pandemic instead of working with the Government to find a way through this difficult time for the British people.’

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured today) was accused of ‘playing politics’ in the middle of the pandemic after he ordered his MPs to sit out a crucial vote tonight on the rules that will replace lockdown

As many as 100 Tory MPs have been considering defying Boris Johnson (pictured today) in a crunch vote this evening

As many as 100 Tory MPs have been considering defying Boris Johnson in a crunch vote this evening, and were left livid when ministers finally released an impact assessment of the tier measures last night, only to find it did not feature any new detail. Rebel ringleader Mark Harper said the ‘wheels were coming off’ the policy.

It is understood the government has another dossier that includes more ‘granular’ information on 40 areas of the economy, although sources dismissed the idea it is ‘secret’, saying it only contains material already ‘publicly available’.

In a statement late last night, Sir Keir said: ‘Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public’s health and that’s why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions. We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow.

‘However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place.

‘We still don’t have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months. It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy.

‘It is imperative that the Government gets control of the virus so that our NHS can be protected and our economy recovers faster.’

However, Labour MPs had already publicly refused to back the moves before the party leader’s shift.

Leftwinger Richard Burgon, secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group and a former shadow justice secretary under previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, was among those who refused to vote for the tiers.

Demanding the current lockdown continue until Christmas, he said: ‘The UK has one of the highest death tolls and deepest economic declines of any major economy. But the Government is still refusing to learn the lessons. Its proposed approach risks causing yet more harm to both public health and the economy.

‘While Coronavirus infections in England have fallen by about a third during lockdown, caseloads remain unacceptably high- many times higher than in the summer and early autumn – and there are still way too many people being admitted to hospital and dying from Covid.

‘The new Tier system will not only fail to drive the virus levels down, but there’s a real risk that taking the foot off the brake over the coming weeks will undermine the gains made by the current lockdown. That will make a Third Wave and yet another lockdown much more likely in the new year. A sustained economic recovery simply isn’t possible if we’re having to constantly move in and out of restrictions.’

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