PM’s ‘negligence’ and ‘lax’ borders to blame for lockdown lifting delay – Labour

·3 min read

The “negligence and incompetence” of Boris Johnson and the country’s “lax” border measures have led to the need to delay the lifting of England’s coronavirus restrictions, according to the shadow home secretary.

Nick Thomas-Symonds will dub the the Delta variant of coronavirus “the Johnson variant” in a speech on Tuesday about UK Covid borders policy.

He will argue that the Prime Minister’s “refusal to take tough decisions” has left Britain facing more weeks of restrictions.

In the speech, Mr Thomas-Symonds will emphasise that Britain’s status as an island country means that, like New Zealand and Australia, “our border protections should have been one of our natural strengths throughout this pandemic”.

He will cite figures showing that 20,000 passengers who could have been infected with the Delta variant arrived from India between April 2 and April 23.

Labour will force another vote in the House of Commons on the issue, and as part of the vote the party is calling for the amber travel list to be scrapped.

Commenting on Mr Johnson’s announcement on Monday evening, Mr Thomas-Symonds is expected to say: “The delay is happening because a new variant first identified overseas was allowed to take hold in this country.

“There is one reason and one reason only that this happened: lax border measures by Conservative ministers.

“They have allowed the Delta variant, first identified in India, to take hold here.

“Let’s call it what it is. Let’s put the blame where it should lie.

“In this country – it’s the Johnson variant.

“The Prime Minister’s negligence and incompetence, his refusal to take tough decisions have left Britain facing weeks more of restrictions – and yet more uncertainty.

“It is a crystal clear metaphor for how Boris Johnson and his government work: they spend so much time posturing and posing over being tough at the borders, yet when it was a matter of keeping our country safe and the variants out, they failed.

“People across the country have every right to be angry about being let down so badly.

“We are an island country. Like New Zealand and Australia, our border protections should have been one of our natural strengths throughout this pandemic.

“Instead, it has been one of our greatest weaknesses.”

On the timing of putting India on the red list, he is expected to say: “Pakistan and Bangladesh were added on 9 April.

“Yet the Prime Minister waited 14 days to add India.

“Those 14 days have resulted in delays to our freedoms, untold damage to our economy and risks to thousands of jobs.

“Civil Aviation Authority figures suggest that at least 20,000 passengers who could have been infected with the Delta variant arrived from India between 2 and 23 April – that is a staggering number.

“It was unbelievably reckless that on his list of priorities Boris Johnson put having his photograph taken with Prime Minister Modi ahead of protecting the British people.

“Nobody is blaming people who travelled when they were permitted to do so; the blame lies with the Prime Minister for his unjustifiable delay.

“It was a fortnight of failure and we are all suffering the consequences.”

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