Labour Will Not Vote Against New Coronavirus Tiers, Says Shadow Minister

Ned Simons
·Politics news editor, HuffPost UK
·4-min read
Boris Johnosn may have to rely on Labour leader Kier Starmer (pictured) to win the vote. (Photo: House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnosn may have to rely on Labour leader Kier Starmer (pictured) to win the vote. (Photo: House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images)

Labour will not vote against Boris Johnson’s new three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions, a shadow minister has confirmed.

The prime minister is facing a significant rebellion from Tory MPs when the measures, due to come into force from December 2, are put to parliament on Tuesday.

Such the scale of Conservative opposition, Johnson could be forced to rely on Keir Starmer’s Labour win the vote.

And Jim McMahon, the shadow transport secretary, said on Sunday it would be “illogical” for Labour to vote against the government and there was “no” chance it would.

Starmer is due to meet with Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser, on Monday to “understand the evidence” behind the tiered system, McMahon added.

Labour could still abstain however, and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the party was seeking “clarity” about the new tier system and warned support was “not unconditional”.

Johnson has told Conservative MPs the new strict tiered system of local restrictions are necessary to avoid a third “damagingnational lockdown.

But in an attempt to soften the growing Tory rebellion against the plan, the prime minister said it would be reviewed at the “end of January”.

In a letter to MPs, he said the restrictions, which split England into tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3, would legally “sunset” on February 3 and would need parliament’s approval to continue.

The government has said it believes the tiered restrictions will need to remain in place until the end of March to control the virus.

Almost 99% of England’s population will be placed into into tier 2 or 3 from December 2 when the nationwide lockdown ends. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly will be under the lightest tier 1 controls.

Parliament will vote to approve the new system on Tuesday, and Johnson said the government would publish “further analysis of the health, economic and social impacts” of the restrictions in an attempt to keep Tory MPs onboard.

Several senior Tories have expressed opposition to the measures, including the 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady who said he wanted to see people “treated as adults” and trusted with their own health decisions.

Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, said on Sunday she “might” support the government in a vote on the tiered measures if “more evidence” is laid out.

Speaking about the new system on Times Radio, McMahon said: “It would be illogical to vote against it, because essentially, there wouldn’t be any restrictions in place.

“And we know in large parts of the country, including my own town here in Oldham, you know that the infection rates are still too high.

“We need to bring down the spread of the virus we need to keep people safe.”

He added: “But we’re also very clear with the government that they need to do far more to give people the support to do the right thing.”

Asked to confirm there was no suggestion no question the party would vote against the government on Tuesday, he said: “No, not on the basis of the the tier system that we have seen.”

Johnson has also committed to reviewing the tier imposed on “every local authority area and each region” on December 16.

The prime minister will announce any changes to the tiers on Thursday December 17 and they will come into effect on Saturday December 19.

“We will set out publicly the circumstances that need to change in each region for it to be considered to move down a tier,” he said.

“No prime minister wants to impose restrictions which cause such harm to society, the economy and people’s mental health.

“The tougher tiers, which must cover much of the country because of high prevalence, will continue to limit social mixing, and hit pubs and bars particularly hard.

“But I am afraid they are necessary if we are to keep the virus under control and avoid either the overwhelming of the NHS or another national lockdown which is far more damaging and restrictive than these tiers. These measures are necessary now, but they will not last forever.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.