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Labour accuses Boris Johnson of showing 'no leadership' on coronavirus as political truce breaks down

Labour accuses Boris Johnson of showing 'no leadership' on coronavirus as political truce breaks down
3 min read

Labour has accused Boris Johnson of failing to provide leadership on the coronavirus outbreak as the political truce on the crisis broke down.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the Prime Minister to "get off your backside" and co-ordinate a global response to the deadly outbreak.

Meanwhile, opposition parties joined forces to urge the Government to do more to explain why its approach to tackling the illness is so different from most other countries.

Mr McDonnell said: “Despite my repeated calls on four occasions in the last fortnight for the Government to work internationally to co-ordinate a response to the coronavirus, there has been no leadership and no action from either the Prime Minister or the Chancellor. 

“It seems Number 10 is following Donald Trump’s lead yet again.  We are saying to Boris Johnson, bluntly, get off your backside and show some international leadership. That is what UK Prime Ministers of all political colours have traditionally done.”

He continued: “So far Johnson seems to have self-isolated himself from his international responsibilities. 

“We are facing the risk of a global recession so we need global economic coordination and a global economic strategy as Labour secured in the last major crisis of 2007/8.”

Opposition politicians met with government officials on Friday to discuss their concerns on the UK’s reaction. 

Unlike other countries affected by the virus, the Government has stopped short of ordering school closures and banning large gatherings at this stage.

Other issues raised included the government’s excessive use of behavioural science methods, and confusion surrounding health funding for devolved bodies. 


Speaking to BBC News, Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “Throughout this whole national emergency we have been broadly supportive of the Government. 

“We certainly support the Government’s attempts or strategy in moving from the so-called contain stage into the delay stage.

But, he continued:  “I also want the Government to move into the explain stage.

“Many members of the public are asking legitimate questions as to why we appear to be taking a different approach to Ireland, to Spain, to Denmark. Many members of the public are asking why big events are not being cancelled.

"We’ve even had Jeremy Hunt - the former Conservative Health Secretary - saying he’s surprised at the Government’s strategy and questioning why further social distancing measures haven’t been taken."

"If the Government can publish more of the science, if they can publish more of the modelling they are basing their decisions on,” Mr Ashworth added.

”If they can explain the assumptions and judgements they are making about human behaviour and allow other scientists, other experts in the field to stress-test it, to peer review it - I think that will help maintain public confidence, because clearly people have lots of questions at the moment.”

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson had spoken to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Franch president Emmanuel Macron on Thursday night, and was due to hold talks with other European leaders on Friday.

The discussions are aimed at developing a global response to the outbreak, the spokesman said.

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