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Keir Starmer urges ministers to treat public like ‘adults’ over coronavirus lockdown exit plan

Sir Keir Starmer said Scotland and Wales were having "adult" conversations with voters about the lockdown

3 min read

Sir Keir Starmer has urged ministers to treat the public like “adults” over plans to exit the coronavirus lockdown.

The Labour leader has stepped up his demands for Boris Johnson to set out an "exit strategy" from the strict lockdown measures, as he warned it was "not credible" for the Government to act as if discussions about lifting restrictions were not happening in Whitehall.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, who is expected to return to work on Monday, Sir Keir said the public had made "great sacrifices" during the pandemic as he claimed the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales were already having "adult" conversations with voters about the measures.

"Simply acting as if this discussion is not happening is not credible, especially when other governments and our own devolved administrations have been able to communicate so much more," he wrote.

"The British public have made great sacrifices to make the lockdown work. They deserve to be part of an adult conversation about what comes next. If we want to take people with us and secure their consent, this is necessary now.

"This is a national crisis and therefore needs a national response. The coming weeks require urgent preparation and planning from the Government. We have already seen the consequences of poor planning and preparation. That cannot happen again."

It comes after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has lead the government's response while Mr Johnson is recuperating from the virus, refused to set out a timetable for scaling back restrictions, warning moving too soon could result in a deadly second wave of infections.

But Sir Keir said that while his party had broadly supported the lockdown, ministers had been too slow to bring the social distancing measures into place.

And he warned Health Secretary Matt Hancock he would hold him to his pledge to boost coronavirus testing to 100,000 a day by the end of the month, also calling for a roadmap for reaching 250,000 tests each day.

"If we are to learn from these mistakes, the Government cannot fall short in its preparation for what happens when the time is right for lockdown measures to be gradually lifted," he added.

"The UK Government is behind the curve on this. I fear we are falling behind the rest of the world. That is why we need to see a significant step-change in the Government’s response to this pandemic.

"Decisions need to be taken quicker and communication with the public needs to be clearer."

Sir Keir's message was echoed by a wave of major Tory donors, including Phones4u founder John Caudwell and banker Peter Hargreaves, who urged ministers to go further in reopening some parts of the economy.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Steve Morgan, the former boss of construction firm Redrow, added: "We're actually in danger that the medicine - if you want to call the lockdown that - is more harmful than the cure.

"I'm strongly in favour of getting the country back to work. This is not about profit; this is about saving the country from going bankrupt, from mass unemployment, from businesses going bust, people losing their livelihoods and homes."

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