Starmer’s Labour Party just descended further down the toilet

Keir Starmer
Steve Topple

Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party has already been mired in controversy. Now, his and its response to the Tories’ latest coronavirus (Covid-19) plan has been chaotic at best. But the actions of MPs and a notorious peer, plus the party’s official line, raise yet more cause for concern.

Send them back!

Boris Johnson announced on Sunday 10 May that he wanted schools to reopen. As BBC News reported:

He hoped the next step ‘at the earliest by 1 June’ would be for some primary pupils to return to school in England.

The detail involved sending reception, year one and year six pupils back from 1 June at the earliest. This is based on the government meeting certain “tests” that they believed would mean it would be safe. But trade unions were not happy, with the National Education Union saying Johnson’s plan was “nothing short of reckless”. Now, the Labour Party has issued its response, and senior figures have made their positions clear. And the responses are worrying, to say the least.

Long-Bailey steps in… and then out…

Labour’s shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey issued a statement. On Monday 11 May, she said:

In the absence of clear scientific advice and a safety plan, the Government has not demonstrated it is in a position to start planning for the wider safe opening of schools, or given any reassurance to parents, teachers and pupils that they will be safe.

She criticised the government’s lack of information and evidence on how reopening schools would work. And she concluded:

The Government must urgently convene education unions and the profession more widely and address their concerns, to allay the anxiety and confusion caused by Boris Johnson’s announcement and this guidance.

By working with the sector the Government can create a workable plan for the reopening of schools when the science indicates it is safe to do so, and which has the confidence of all those affected.

But by using the government’s own line around ‘scientific advice’, Long-Bailey has merely played into its hands.

Own goals

The Department for Education (DfE) has now issued guidance about how schools will reopen. And the department’s boss Gavin Williamson said that:

The latest scientific advice indicates it will be safe for more children to return to school from 1 June, but we will continue to limit the overall numbers in school and introduce protective measures to prevent transmission.

So an own goal from Labour – despite shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds saying “we don’t have that evidence, I feel, currently” (i.e. that reopening schools would be safe). The party’s opposition to this was always going to be difficult, given that Starmer himself said in April that “in principle” schools should be among the first to reopen. But then, at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), he scored another own goal. As Labour MP Tulip Siddiq tweeted:

The Tories’ answer would, of course, be ‘send the children back to school’. Confused? It seems the Labour Party is. And this chaotic, scattergun approach to the subject of schools was just entrenched by other senior party figures’ comments on Twitter.

Another brick in the wall

Lord Andrew Adonis tweeted that teaching unions were being “totally irresponsible” for not backing the Tories:

And Labour MP Barry Sheerman said similar:

So despite trade unions’ concerns and opposition from parents, Labour has fudged the issue completely. It could have consulted with, and then supported, the teaching unions. But instead, its position has been mixed at best – and a shambles at worst. Labour’s inconsistency under Starmer on this issue is in no way how an opposition party should be acting.

Featured image via BBC – YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Interesting that this Government is prepared to play ‘ducks and drakes’ with other people’s children’s lives. They’ve already done that, with catastrophic results, to the old and ill, both in the community and in Care Homes.

      Will every Member of Parliament and House of Lords’ young relative also be back at school on 01 June?

      These children are our future. Their education is not part of a chequer board. it is something which is already far too messed about with by uncomprehending commercialised people’s brains.

      Instead of forcing frightened children back into school, give them the Summer.

      Let it be ‘a Summer to Remember’, in the parks and on the beaches – to get them over this appalling catastrophe of a government ‘plan to save us’!

      Children learn all their lives. Training by Government edict, can wait a few more months. Let them return in September, but only if safe to do so.

      For that, we need the introduction – or rather the further introduction – of Universal Basic Income, to cover their parents’ backs and allow their return to work also ‘only when safe to do so’ .

      Remember what happened following the initial major, deadly influenza epidemic, which descended on his country at the end of The Great War.. when the firs, low, spike was followed later by an enormous spike of deaths.

    2. I disagree. Schools WILL have to reopen, sooner or later. I want my kids to go back to school. And I want to go back to work.

      The key thing is it should only happen “when it’s safe to do so”. That’s what RLB is asking, because that’s what anyone with sense should want. That’s what I want. IF (and that’s a big IF), schools are safe to open on 1st June, yay! My son can’t wait to get back! We cannot disagree with that in principle!

      But the problem with the Tories is that they lie. Constantly. Every. Single. Time. And that’s where they need to be opposed. They are likely, if not pressured, to declare it safe to get back to school, even if not. And that’s what RLB is calling for.

      As for Adonis and Sheerman… Well, they’re arses.

    3. The disconnect is striking between the writer’s surly thumbs down to Starmer and his team, and the public perception as evidenced by a YouGov poll of a credible and competent – dare one say electable – leader of the opposition. The disconnect between the party faithful and the electorate turned out to be the other way round, of course, in relation to the previous Labour leader, and the consequences of that we are all going to have to live with for the next five years. In the spirit of the article, can I be permitted to whinge about a tedious formula that seems to be spreading like a virus in online journalism, in which negligible content is padded out with other people’s tweets. It is a formula that rightly or wrongly I associate with the Daily Express. Not to dwell on the parallels, but their articles are clogged with annoying adverts too.

      1. Personally, I’d advise to set little store by ‘public perception as evidenced by a YouGov poll’, The Tory owned pollster is far from the most reliable source of public opinion and as Churchill observed: “There is no such thing as public opinion, only published opinion”.
        As true today as when it was spoken over sixty years ago, perhaps further reinforced by Edward Snowden’s revelation of GCHQ trialling the ‘interference’ in online polling.

    4. It will be bad enough trying to get Secondary School pupils to observe “social distancing” etc. Trying to get pupils in early primary to do so will be a nightmare. Incidentally, children may not be falling victim themselves (not entirely true) but they are first class carriers of all kinds of disease especially in the early years or when they change schools. Good luck when they carry it back home and commiserations to the staff expected to deal with this. Most schools across the UK have been providing on-line lessons and, in my area at least, providing reconditioned lap-tops/tablets to those who don’t have access to them.

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