Labour turns to pragmatism for new era’s challenging start | Politics

The new leader of the job, Keir Starmer, gave some kind of advice to the members of his new front team when he started chairing the shadow cabinet meetings by videoconference last month: you don't have to speak for it.

While Jeremy Corbyn's consensual presidential style involved listening to long contributions from colleagues with contrasting views, Starmer reminds shadow ministers that they shouldn't feel compelled to participate.

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With the nation dominated by the Covid-19 crisis, he took an approach equally restricted to Labor's contribution to the national debate – to varied analyzes of those on his side.

"Our pragmatic decision is, first of all, to engage in practical things that the government could do to make people's lives easier," says Jonathan Reynolds, secretary of parallel work and pensions.

"In my area, for example, this means improving inherited benefits and ending the benefit limit and the limit of two children in universal credit – instead of saying: & # 39; We will have a universal basic income [UBI]"Or" We will have a minimum income guarantee "."

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But while his supporters applauded Starmer's approach and argued that a more aggressive line will simply alienate the public at a time of high government popularity, Job leftists were frustrated by the party's refusal to take advantage of the crisis as a time to propose a radical overhaul of the economy and society.

Jon Trickett, now relegated to the position of shadow cabinet minister, says: “The country is crying out for a long-term vision. We need to map great vision to the kind of new normal that can exist after this pandemic. Perhaps the leadership does not feel that now is the right time to do this. "

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The UK government said that these five tests should be performed before considering the possibility of easing coronavirus blocking restrictions:

  • The NHS has sufficient capacity to provide intensive care and specialized treatment across the UK
  • Sustained and consistent drop in daily deaths from coronavirus
  • Reliable data to show that the infection rate is decreasing to manageable levels in general
  • Operational challenges, including testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), are at hand with supplies capable of meeting future demand
  • Confident that any adjustments to the current measures do not risk a second infection spike that overwhelms the NHS

Reynolds says these are arguments that Labor can come up with later. For now, the priority is urgent for urgent assistance for families and families in difficulties. "I am very supportive of UBI, but realistically, you need to use the channels we have," he says.

“The fact that we have presented pragmatic suggestions on how to help people at the moment does not detract from the fact that we want and are committed to a complete alternative to universal credit: we want to work with people and build a great coalition around it.

This approach was replicated throughout the shadow cabinet.

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Annaliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, praised the chancellor's economic rescue plans, but pointed out the gaps in them. And Nick Thomas-Symonds, the home secretary, praised the frontline police, but called for more action to protect victims of domestic violence.

Labor believes that this is what the public expects from the official opposition in times of national crisis.

Starmer held the first two in a series of planned virtual “Call Keir” meetings, with voters from Bury and Tees Valley this week.

These meetings and surveys seen by labor strategists are saying that the public does not want to hear harsh criticism of the government. "The approach we are getting from the public is: & # 39; We all need to be together to get through this & # 39;", said a party source.

They also say that the public believes that the right time to challenge the government to deal with the head-on surge will be after the worst is over – although Starmer intensified his attacks last week, telling Johnson that the UK had been slow to crash, and now you risk "falling behind in the rest of the world".

The hidden health secretary, Jon Ashworth – one of the few pioneers to remain in the same position when Starmer took office, was praised by Matt Hancock for his constructive approach; but his frustration with the government's position also seemed to bubble up this week.

Ashworth has been asking for the test and tracking approach that Hancock has been taking for some time – and believes that the secretary of health should have started much earlier to recruit the necessary army of contact trackers that he now recognized as necessary.

"This blockade is not a strategy in itself to defeat the virus," Ashworth told the Guardian. “This block gives us time to implement a strategy. And my big fear is that, just as they failed to prepare the tests we needed, and they failed to prepare the PPE for the frontline team, it appears that they are failing to prepare the tracking capacity we need. "

Most of the Starmer team have been in touch with their conservative opposing numbers, and the shadow cabinet is receiving instructions from relevant public officials.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow education secretary, says that while they don't want to "bombard" public service, "our job as an opposition is to be constructively critical."

And Reynolds says that these private conversations are not a substitute for a public question in parliament – even if virtually.

Contact tracking is one of the most basic tables of public health responses to a pandemic like the coronavirus. It literally means tracking down anyone with whom someone with an infection had contact days before becoming ill. It was – and always will be – central to the fight against Ebola, for example. In West Africa, in 2014/15, there were large teams of people who tracked relatives and knocked on the doors of neighbors and friends to find someone who might have been infected by touching the sick person.

Most people who receive Covid-19 will be infected by their friends, neighbors, family members or co-workers, so they will be first on the list. It is not likely that someone will be infected by someone they do not know, who pass by on the street.

It is still assumed that there should be reasonable exposure – originally experts said people would need to be together for 15 minutes, less than 2 meters away. Therefore, a contact tracker will want to know who the person who tested positive met and talked to in the two or three days before they develop symptoms and isolate themselves.

South Korea has large teams of contact trackers and, in particular, pursued all contacts of a religious group, many of whom became ill. This outbreak was effectively eliminated by contact tracking and quarantine.

Singapore and Hong Kong also adopted testing and contact tracking, as did Germany. All of these countries have had relatively low mortality rates to date. O World Health Organization says it should be the "backbone of the answer" in all countries.

Sarah Boseley Health Editor

Boris Johnson informed Starmer directly this week, as part of what the prime minister said was part of his effort to "build the greatest possible consensus" on how to manage the next phase of the crisis.

Both sides insist that it falls far short of Labor's cooperation in decision-making, however, with the Starmer team about talks about a "national government" like a Westminster bubble fantasy.

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When Johnson returned to the Downing Street press conference on Thursday, he seemed to reflect Labor's recent repeated requests for an "exit strategy", avoiding the phrase used repeatedly by Starmer, but promising a "script" and "menu" of options ".

Speaking afterwards, Starmer made it clear that he felt justified. "I think it shows that we were right to challenge him, and I am pleased to see a plan, we will see it when we see it, but it is a step in the right direction."

With Corbyn watching from behind, Starmer used a revealing phrase in Wednesday's Prime Minister's questions to describe how he sees his own approach – and that helps explain his caution. "I try to be careful to keep the data and evidence, rather than just having an opinion," he told Dominic Raab.

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