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Boris Johnson to hold coronavirus talks with Labour’s Keir Starmer this week

Boris Johnson to hold coronavirus talks with Labour’s Keir Starmer this week

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer.

3 min read

Boris Johnson will hold “meaningful” talks with Labour leader Keir Starmer on the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in the coming days, Downing Street has confirmed.

Number 10 said the Labour leader’s office had been approached on Monday morning, as the Prime Minister returned to work following his own battle with the disease.

Speaking on the steps of Downing Street, Mr Johnson promised all decisions on the future of the country’s nationwide lockdown would be “taken with the maximum possible transparency”, and vowed to bring in businesses and opposition parties “as far as we possibly can” in a bid to build consensus on the next steps.

Sir Keir, who took the reins as Labour leader earlier this month, has already urged the Government to publish an “exit strategy” from lockdown, this weekend writing to the Prime Minister to say he needed to treat the public like “adults”.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said on Monday: “The PM will be continuing the cross-party engagement that’s been taking place throughout the last several weeks.

“He plans to speak with the leader of the opposition this week and the leaders of all the Westminster parties next week, hopefully alongside the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser.”

Number 10 said it had made contact with Sir Keir’s office on Monday morning, and said of the planned talks: “The point of it really is to ensure that we’re considering any and all postive suggestions for how we can respond and making sure that we have meaningful engagement.”

But the spokesperson said they were “not aware” of any plans to involve Sir Keir in meetings of the Cobra emergency committee, which are attended by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, and the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Mr Johnson is meanwhile expected to chair Cabinet on Thursday, his first since returning from a bout of coronavirus that left him in intensive care.

It is understood that Labour has already responded to the bid from Number 10 and a call with the PM is being set up for later this week.

Sir Keir is expected to stress the points raised in his weekend letter demanding more detail from the government on how lockdown might be eased, as well as raising concerns about the supply of Personal Protective Equipment to frontline health and care staff and the bid to increase testing for Covid-19.

Speaking this weekend, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said the opposition wanted to work with the Government on plans to ease the lockdown, which has now been in force for more than a month.

A review of the restrictive measures must take place by May 7, and Ms Reeves said: "We want the government to publish its plan so we can scrutinise it. We don't want to put forward a rival plan to the Government. 

“We want to work with the government in bringing forward a plan and then getting that right.”

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