What we learned from the first PMQs of the year

Keir Starmer has called for a tougher lockdown, and five other things we learned at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions

1. Keir Starmer has called for a tougher lockdown 

Much ridiculed by the Prime Minister for being “Captain Hindsight”, and even considered by some in his party to be overly cautious in his approach, the Labour leader used the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the new year to nail his colours to the mast on the coronavirus approach ahead. Clearly hoping to be one step ahead of an eventual move by government to toughen the English lockdown restrictions, Keir Starmer declared that “the current restrictions are not strong enough to contain the virus”, asking: “When cases are higher than last March, when hospital admissions are higher than last March, when deaths are higher than last March, why on earth are restrictions weaker than last March?” 

2. The vaccine rollout will move to a 24-hour approach “as soon as we can”

The Prime Minister couldn’t be specific about a timeframe, but the government has now committed to an eventual 24-hour approach to the vaccination rollout.

3. Boris Johnson was genuinely angry at being confronted with his own government’s free school meals guidance

Following an outcry over images of the paltry food parcels being provided to children eligible for free school meals while schools are closed, the Prime Minister, who spoke to footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford about this issue earlier today, was clear that these images were “disgraceful”. But the Labour leader confronted him with the Department for Education’s own guidance for food parcel provision. Johnson was visibly rattled by the question, and accused Starmer of “hypocrisy” before the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, intervened to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw his comments. In a slick move from Labour’s communications team, the party is now circulating a comparison between the food parcels that have sparked a social media storm and the government’s own guidance: 

  The rise of the fact-checker in an age of disinformation

4.  There is increasing agitation on the Conservative benches for more support for hospitality…

Simon Jupp, the Conservative MP for East Devon, asked for an extension to the VAT cut for hospitality.

5. … and for a stated vaccination goal at which point the lockdown will be lifted

Julian Sturdy, the Conservative MP for York Outer, used his question to amplify existing calls on the Conservative backbenches to set a clear “line in the sand” setting out a point when restrictions can be lifted, after a certain proportion of the priority groups have been vaccinated. It is the new priority of the Coronavirus Recovery Group of Conservative MPs who are keen to see the lockdown measures lifted as soon as possible. 

6. Boris Johnson says he would have “no hesitation” in invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, if it comes to it

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson asked the Prime Minister what his government is going to do about the disruption to trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland as a result of his Brexit deal, which has caused empty shelves in Northern Irish supermarkets in recent days. Donaldson asked the Prime Minister if he …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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