Starmer accuses Johnson of 'catastrophic failure of leadership' over England lockdown – as it happened

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Boris Johnson has sought to persuade Conservative backbenchers to.....ewSparrow.

Evening summary

We now have not only much better medication and the prospect of a vaccine the immediate prospect of many millions of cheap, reliable and rapid turnaround tests – with a result in minutes.

Trials have already shown that we can help suppress the disease in hospitals, schools and universities by testing large numbers of NHS workers, children, teachers and students.

These tests, crucially, identify people who are infectious but do not have symptoms, allowing them immediately to self-isolate and stop the spread of the disease,and allowing those who are not infectious to continue as normal.

This means that, unlike in the spring, it’s possible to keep these institutions open and still stop the spread of the disease.

And so over the next few days and weeks, we plan a steady but massive expansion in the deployment of these quick turnaround tests which we will be manufacturing in this country applying them in an ever-growing number of situations, from helping women to have their partners with them in labour wards when they’re giving birth, to testing whole towns and even cities.

Many Tory MPs are very unhappy about the decision to order a second lockdown but, although some of them were openly critical during the statement, overall there was less anger than might have been expected and even those Conservatives sceptical of the strategy were generally respectful. Johnson’s reception was much warmer than the one Theresa May used to get from Brexiters in the year before her resignation. This might be because reports of Tory dissent have been exaggerated, but more probably it’s because the lockdown-sceptics are having little success in persuading colleagues they have a viable alternative strategy.

  • Sir Keir Starmer has said Johnson’s lockdown U-turn represents “a catastrophic failure of leadership and of judgement”. (See 3.50pm.) He also said that Johnson’s decision to delay the lockdown had cost lives (see 11.58am) - a judgment shared by at least one scientist on the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee for Emergencies. (See 9.54am.)
  • Johnson has hinted that the Treasury will fund a furlough scheme for Scotland after November if it needs one because it is in lockdown when England isn’t. (See 5.34pm.) He made the apparent concession in the Commons, telling the Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross:

The furlough is a UK-wide scheme. If other parts of the UK decide to go into measures which require the furlough scheme then of course it’s available to them, that has to be right and that applies not just now but of course in the future as well.

Earlier, in a TV interview, Ross said Johnson was not as good a communicator as the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon. (See 5.13pm.) Johnson proved him right when when it became clear that no one really knew quite what the PM’s answer to Ross in the Commons actually meant. (See 5.44pm and 5.53pm.)

That’s all from me for tonight. But our coverage continues on our global coronavirus live blog. It’s here.


This is from Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland’s business and economics editor. He says the Treasury aren’t being clear as to what Boris Johnson’s apparent concession to Scotland over furlough actually meant. (See 5.34pm, 5.38pm and 5.44pm.)

Munira Wilson (Lib Dem) says lockdowns only delay the spread of the virus. What is the government going to do to ensure that MPs aren’t here again in January debating the need for another lockdown.

Johnson says that is a key question. He says the solution is mass testing. That will isolate infected people, and allow those testing negative to live their lives more normally, he says. He describes it as the “game changer we can all look forward to”.

That’s it. The statement is now over.

Sir Edward Leigh (Con) invites Johnson to join him for communion in Westminster Cathedral tomorrow to see how churches are observing social distancing, and why services should be allowed during lockdown.

Johnson says the ban on services is only proposed for a month. We must do everything to get the virus down, she says.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, says Boris Johnson’s announcement (see 5.34pm) is very welcome - if it actually means that the government will fund an 80% furlough scheme in Scotland after November whenever it needs it.

She says the Scottish government is seeking “urgent” clarification of what Johnson did actually mean.

Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Conservative leader, and current Tory leader in the Scottish parliament, is confident that Boris Johnson was making a concession to Scotland (and the other devolved administrations too, presumably) on furlough. See 5.34pm.

Johnson hints UK could fund Scotland-only furlough scheme after November

In the Commons Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, asked if Scotland could access the furlough scheme beyond November.

Johnson said the furlough scheme was a UK-wide scheme.

If other parts of the UK go into measures that require the furlough scheme, that is available to them, he said. He said that was “not just now but in the future”.

Johnson has already answered several questions on this (eg see 4pm), mostly in identical terms, but it has not been clear whether or not he has been saying the government would fund a Scotland-only furlough scheme beyond November if Scotland were in lockdown, but not England. In his answer to Ross Johnson used similar language, but added the new clause “not just now but in the future”. That sounded like a concession.

  • Johnson hints UK could fund a Scotland-only furlough scheme beyond November.

The next question came from Pete Wishart (SNP) said he thought he has just heard Johnson confirm that Scotland could use the furlough scheme after November if it needed to.

Johnson said furlough was a UK scheme and it was available to Scotland if it needed it.


Jessica Morden (Lab) asks if furlough funding will be backdated in Wales, where a lockdown started more than a week ago.

Johnson says the government will support all parts of the UK.

Johnson says “it is fully [his] intention” that the lockdown will end on 2 December.

Stephen McCabe (Lab) asks if the PM has considered making way for someone with better leadership qualities. “No,” Johnson replies.

Douglas Chapman (SNP) asks again for an assurance that Scotland can requisition Treasury money for the furlough scheme whenever it needs it.

Johnson says the furlough scheme is a UK-wide scheme. He quotes the figures already spend in Scotland and says “more will be forthcoming”.

Richard Holden (Con) asks for an assurance that the schools will remain open during the lockdown, and that it will end on 2 December.

Johnson says the schools will remain open. And the measures will end on 2 December.

Scottish Tory leader says Scots not 'absolutely wrong' to rate Sturgeon more highly than Johnson

In an interview with ITV’s Peter Smith, Douglas Ross, the new Scottish Conservative leader, said “most objective people” would agree that Nicolas Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is a better communicator than Boris Johnson.

He also admitted that Johnson was damaging the case for the union. When it was put to him that Johnson had a -57% approval rating in Scotland, and Sturgeon a +49% one, and that this was helping the independence cause, Ross replied:

You can’t say that the people of Scotland are absolutely wrong with their ratings on their various leaders. We’ve got to reflect on that.

Smith said that was quite an admission. “You asked more for an honest answer,” Ross replied.

Charlotte Nichols (Lab) asks if the PM will apologise to people laid off before the furlough scheme was extended.

Johnson says fair-minded people will think the government has done as much as it can.

Richard Thomson (SNP) asks about this Sunday Times story about the head of the vaccine taskforce showing confidential government data to American investors.

Johnson says he thanks people who are working for the government pro bono. He does not address the substance of the story.

Steve Baker (Con) says the Public Health Act 1984 is subject to judicial review. He says the government should pass emergency legislation using the Civil Contingencies Act instead.

Johnson says the CCA has strict conditions applying to its use, one of which is that it can only be used if powers needed aren’t available elsewhere. But in this case they are, under the Public Health Act. So it is not appropriate, he says.

John Baron (Con) says the elderly should be given more leeway. Sweden recently abandoned specific advice for the over-70s.

Johnson says the government is not bringing back shielding. And he says Sweden is not quite as open as people think. Pupils over 15 are not back in school there, he says, whereas they are in England.

Greg Smith (Con) says many people stayed away from the NHS during the first lockdown, at a cost to their own health. What can be done to ensure that does not happen again?

Johnson says the government is acting now to ensure the NHS does not get overwhelmed.

Boris Johnson says national lockdown will end on 2 December 'without a shred of doubt'

Simon Jupp, the Conservative MP for East Devon, asks for an assurance that “without a shred of doubt” the country will return to the regional approach in December.

Johnson says he can say without a shred of doubt that the restrictions will come to an end in December. (The regulations are time limited.) But what happens then will depend on the data, he says.


Lilian Greenwood (Lab) asks what will be done to ensure people in Nottingham who need healthcare this autumn will get it.

Johnson says a colossal £34bn investment is being made in the NHS.

Back in the Commons Tony Lloyd (Lab) asks for an assurance that the trace element of test and trace will be made to work.

Johnson repeats the point about capacity. (See 4.17pm.) But he says those contacted need to self-isolate. The government will make a “big, big push on that”, he says.

UK records 18,950 new cases and 136 Covid-related deaths

And here are some further figures from this afternoon’s update on the UK government’s coronavirus dashboard.

  • The UK has recorded 18,950 further cases of coronavirus. That is 18% down on the total for yesterday (23,254) and 9% down on the total for Monday last week (20,890).
  • The UK has recorded 136 further deaths. That is 16% down on the total for yesterday (162) but 33% up on the total for Monday last week (102).


Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, asks the PM to publish an impact assessment for the lockdown.

Johnson says many assessments have already been carried out. But, against that, you must consider the loss of life from not acting, he says.

Brady told Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night that he was likely to vote against the lockdown on Wednesday. He described it as “totalitarian”. He told the programme:

The aspect of lockdown restrictions that bother me most is the extent of the intrusion into what ordinarily we see as fundamental human rights – the freedom of association, the right to a family life, we even have the government telling people who they are allowed to sleep with or not depending on whether they are deemed to be in an established relationship or not. If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil and here the removal of peoples fundamental liberties is going almost without comment.

Johnson says testing capacity has reached 500,000 tests per day, its target for end of October

Karin Smyth (Lab) says the government should sack Dido Harding as head of NHS test and trace. She has been a failure, Smyth says.

Johnson says NHS test and trace has achieved its target of getting the testing capacity up to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October.

That figure has just been confirmed by an update on the government’s coronavirus dashboard.

But, as the graph shows, although capacity has increased significantly in the last week or so, the number of tests actually being carried out is rising much more slowly. Critics would say there is no point having the capacity if it is not being used.

Testing figures
Testing figures. Photograph: No 10


Sir Bernard Jenkin (Con), the chair of the liaison committee, says he will support the PM because no one else has set out a viable alternative. But he urges the government to publish a white paper on test and trace, and to publish more data behind the government’s decision making.

In response to a question from David Davis (Con), Johnson says the government has been looking at the case for extending use of vitamin D and an announcement will come shortly.

Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader at Westminster, says people in Wales have noticed that the government will only extend job support when jobs in the south of England are threatened. She says YesCymru, the independence movement, has gained 2,000 members in two days as a result. She thanks him for his contribution.

Stephen Metcalfe (Con) asks the PM to review the ban on outdoor sports like golf and tennis.

Johnson says the government has to break the chains of transmission.

Sammy Wilson (DUP) says we were promised a Churchillian response. But instead Johnson is more like Lord Halifax, he says. He says we should not be surrendering to the virus.

Johnson says the medical advisers are optimistic about the future.

Fay Jones (Con) criticises the Welsh government for creating artificial barriers between England and Wales.

Johnson says it is important people limit their travel.

Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, says his party will back the lockdown. But he calls for the carers’ allowance to be increased in line with the increase in universal credit.

Johnson says he will look at the idea.


Charles Walker, a Conservative, says he will vote against the lockdown. He suggests we need a written constitution to guarantee people’s rights.

Johnson says he does not think that is necessary.

Iain Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, says he has repeatedly asked for the furlough scheme to be extended for Scotland.

But the government only complied when England needed it, he says.

He asks for a guarantee that the Treasury will fund a furlough scheme for Scotland whenever Scotland needs it.

Johnson says the answer is yes. The furlough scheme is a UK-wide scheme, he says. He says Blackford was talking nonsense. Furlough already applies up there, he says.

(Johnson is missing the point. The Scottish government wants an assurance that 80% furlough will apply there beyond November, if it needs a national lockdown, even if England is not in lockdown.)

Liam Fox, the former international trade secretary, suggests a new parliamentary committee should be set up to look at the case for a lockdown, to ensure the cure is not worse than the disease.

Johnson says that is a matter for the Commons. He says existing select committees have been looking at this already.

Johnson suggests criticism of test and trace leads to fewer people self-isolating

Johnson is responding to Starmer.

He says he makes no apology for trying to avoid a lockdown.

It was not wrong to support a local approach, or support test and trace. Both of those have done a “heroic job” in their way.

He says Labour should stop knocking test and trace.

People need to self-isolate more than they are doing, he says. And he implies that Labour’s criticism is hindering this.

He says the measures will end on 2 December. MPs will vote on what happens next.

He claims people want to see politicians working together.

Starmer says Labour will vote for the lockdown.

But it wants the government to use the time wisely.

He says it must fix the test and trace system.

Job support should be made at least as generous as it was in the spring.

And he asks the PM to clarify how the lockdown will end. Will it only happen when R falls below 1? Or will some areas exit lockdown first?

Starmer says Leicester has been under restrictions for 127 days already.

Starmer accuses Johnson of 'catastrophic failure of leadership and judgment'

Sir Keir Starmer says the central lesson from the first phase was that, if you don’t act quickly, it will take longer to suppress the virus.

As a result of the delay from the PM and the chancellor, the human cost has risen.

He repeats the figures he quoted in his CBI speech. (See 11.58am.)

He says this was a “catastrophic failure of leadership and of judgment” from Johnson.

UPDATE: Here is a longer version of the quote from Starmer.

At every stage the prime minister has been too slow and behind the curve.

At every stage, he has pushed away challenge, ignored advice and put what he hoped would happen ahead of what is happening.

At every stage he has over-promised and under delivered.

Rejecting the advice of his own scientists for 40 days was a catastrophic failure of leadership and of judgement.

The prime minister now needs to explain to the British people why he failed to act and to listen for so long.


Johnson says these measures are time limited.

MPs will get a vote on the next steps, he says.

He says the scientists are “bleak” about the prospects for now. But they are optimistic about the medium and long term.

Johnson says, if people want to know what his strategy is, it is to suppress the virus.

And he says cheap, fast tests will be available soon.

There will be a steady expansion of these quick turnaround tests within the next few weeks.

They can be used to allow partners to be present when a woman is giving birth, or to test whole towns.

He says humanity has defeated every other infectious disease.

But he cannot pretend that the next few weeks will be easy, he says.

Johnson announces increase in value of financial support for self-employed in November

Johnson says support for the self-employed is being increased in November.

  • The self-employed will be able to claim for 80% of past profits, not 40% as before, during October, Johnson says.

Johnson says people will not be asked to shield again in the way they did in the last lockdown.

But the clinically extremely vulnerable (the 2 million people asked to shield first time around) should only work from home, he says.


Johnson is now summing up the measures announced at his press conference on Saturday.

Remembrance Sunday events can go ahead if they are outside, and social distancing is observed, he says.

Johnson says he wants to thank people who have put up with local restrictions for months.

As far as possible, the government wants to continue using local and regional measures, he says.

But he says when circumstances change, policy must change too.

Hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed, he says. He says that means the “sacred principle” that everyone should get the treatment they need would not be honoured. And doctors would have to choose who to treat and who to ignore.

He says, even if the government doubled hospital capacity, that gain would be swallowed up in a single doubling time of the virus.

Johnson says it was right to try to get the virus under control using regional measures.

And he says he rejects claims he is acting more slowly than other European countries. The move to national measures has been faster than in France, he says.

Boris Johnson is speaking now.

He says the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser described the “remorseless” advance of the virus.

It is spreading faster than the reasonable worst case scenario.

It is more prevalent in the north, but in the south-east and in the Midlands the doubling time is worse than in the north-west.

Without action, there could be twice as many deaths over the winter as in the first wave, he says.

Boris Johnson's statement to MPs about lockdown for England

Boris Johnson is about to make a Commons statement about the lockdown for England.

The list of MPs down to ask a question is here. There are 100 MPs on the list, so it may take some time.

Public Health Wales has recorded 1,646 further cases.

That’s up 42% on the total for last Monday (1,158) and up 163% on the total for the Monday two weeks ago (626).

Public Health Wales has also recorded three further deaths. That is half the figure for last Monday (6) but three times the figure for a fortnight ago (1).

The details are here.

Mark Davies, the bishop of Shrewsbury, has joined other bishops (see 11.41am) in speaking out against the government’s decision to ban church services during the lockdown.

In a message to parishioners he said:

No evidence has been offered to justify why the government seeks to ban public worship that invariably takes place amid some of the most stringent Covid safety measures in the whole of society.

We are asking our government and political representatives to provide the evidence on which they are seeking to impose a ban on all public worship in England.

We believe that public worship is not part of the problem we face, rather it is part of the solution to this deeply human crisis.

On Sky News Charles Walker, a vice chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, has just said he expects 15 Tory MPs to rebel when the Commons votes on the lockdown for England on Wednesday.

No 10 would be delighted to keep the rebellion down to that level. There were 42 Conservatives rebels when MPs voted on the compulsory 10pm closing time for pubs.

NHS England has recorded 118 further hospital deaths for people who have tested positive for coronavirus. There were 36 in the north-east and Yorkshire, 29 in the north-west, 26 in the Midlands, 12 in London, eight in the east of England, five in the south-east and two in the south-west. The details are here.

That is 14% down on the total for yesterday (137), but 30% up on the total for last Monday (91) and 55% up on the total for the Monday two weeks ago (76).


Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, has suggested that the Covid crisis has led to the border between England and Wales becoming the hardest it has been for centuries.

At his press conference in Cardiff, Drakeford said police forces on both sides of the border would have a role to play to make sure people did not travel from England to Wales to “escape” the month-long English lockdown.

He also said that people in Wales would not be allowed to travel to England or abroad without good reason even after his county’s “firebreak” lockdown ends next Monday. However, people will be able to travel within Wales without restrictions.

Asked if this was the “hardest” the border had ever been, the first minister said:

That may well be the case, for several centuries at least.

We do have to consider the impact the English lockdown will have on the next steps we take in Wales. We need to do this because we share a long and porous border. Every day on a non-lockdown day almost 150,000 people criss-cross this border to work, visit family, shop and to travel.

It is really important as we open up, Wales doesn’t become an escape for people seeking to circumvent the tighter restrictions imposed by the prime minister.

Drakeford said rules were being drawn up in England to stop people from travelling to Wales without good reason. He said: “Our police forces but also police forces across the border will have to play their part to ensure that is enforced.”

But he also argued the better solution was to persuade people to obey the rules rather than have to impose penalties on those who broke them.

Or not. The England/Wales border is about to become the hardest it’s been for centuries, the first minister says.
Or not. The England/Wales border is about to become the hardest it’s been for centuries, the first minister says. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images


The Rev Michael Smith, York Minster’s canon pastor, lighting a candle
The Rev Michael Smith, York Minster’s canon pastor, lighting a candle during the Minster’s season of remembrance, which continues today with a special day to remember those who have died in 2020. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA


MPs to get vote on what replaces lockdown after it ends on 2 December, No 10 says

Here are the main lines from the No 10 lobby briefing.

  • The prime minister’s spokesman said MPs will get a vote on whatever restrictions replace the lockdown in England when it is due to end on 2 December. He said the government would “seek to” go back into a tiered system, but pledged a Commons vote on any replacement.

As a matter of hard legal fact the regulations will expire on 0001 2 December and MPs will get a vote on what replaces the regulations. The intention of the government is to go back into a tiered system which is based on a local and regional basis.

  • The spokesman defended the decision not to allow pubs to sell takeaway alcohol during the lockdown. He said:

The way to get the R rate down and to bring the virus under control is to reduce the level of social contacts which people are having. What we’re seeking to do is to reduce the number of gatherings which might take place where there might be social contact that might lead to transmission of the virus.

  • And he defended the decision not to let golf courses and tennis courts remain open. He said:

People are able to use public spaces or walk or run in the park. The purpose of the tougher regulations, which I expect are going to be difficult for very many people, are to significantly reduce social contact.

  • He suggested that further announcements about the delivery of rapid coronavirus tests will be announced soon, with the army involved in distributing them. He said:

What we know from trialling them in schools as well as in hospitals is that we can use the tests not just to locate infected people but to drive down the disease.

What you will be seeing in the coming days and weeks is an expansion in the deployment of the quick-turnaround tests.

We have brought the army in to work on the logistics of distributing the tests and I would expect that programme to begin work this week.

  • He said the PM expected MPs to continue travelling to parliament during the lockdown.


England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will seek to agree joint rules for Christmas, Downing Street said today.

Following a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, chaired by the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and attended by the devolved administrations, No 10 said all four governments would “work together on a joint approach to the Christmas period”.

Welsh non-essential travel ban in November to cover flights from Cardiff airport too, says Drakeford

At his news conference Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, said the ban on non-essential travel outside Wales during November, while the English lockdown is in force (see 1.16pm), would also cover flights from Cardiff airport. He explained:

We decided it just doesn’t make sense to leave that possibility open to people in Wales when only Cardiff airport will be available to them, and leaving Cardiff airport open would be a magnet to draw people from other parts of the United Kingdom into Wales at a point where we don’t want that to happen.

So that is something that has changed as a result of the prime minister’s statement on Saturday, and we’ve decided that is the simplest and safest way to prevent the risk of people travelling inside of the United Kingdom.

Cardiff airport
Cardiff airport. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images


Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, has attacked over-centralisation by Westminster and called for English mayors and devolved administrations to be given seats in a reformed House of Lords.

In his first major speech since becoming Scottish Tory leader, Ross said there was mounting evidence “trust has broken down” between Boris Johnson’s government and the leaders of the UK’s nations and regions during the Covid crisis and the Brexit transition process.

That was largely driven by the prime minister’s centralisation of power and “winner takes all” attitude to Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, Ross told the Tory-leaning think tank Policy Exchange in London.

“The Covid-19 crisis has put the structures for interaction between the UK government, devolved administrations and indeed the English mayoralties to the ultimate test,” Ross said. That had fuelled widespread discontent with Johnson’s government.

Trust has broken down and when it does we see time and time again popular opinion siding with their devolved representatives.

Ross hinted heavily that he sided with the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs who have warned Johnson his recent approach has exposed “deep structural and systemic disadvantage faced by our communities”.

His warnings to Johnson follow a surge in support for both the Scottish National party and for independence during the Covid crisis, putting Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and first minister, on course for a majority in next May’s Holyrood election.

Welsh people told not to cross border into England without reasonable excuse in November

At his news conference Mark Drakeford said that when the Welsh “firebreak” lockdown ends next week, Welsh people will not be allowed to cross the border into England without a reasonable excuse while the English lockdown is in force. He said:

There will be no travel restrictions inside Wales but during the month-long lockdown in England, travel will not be permitted outside Wales without a reasonable excuse.

Drakeford said that needing to cross the border for work was clearly a reasonable excuse.

But [travel across the border] will be a restricted list of essential purposes, rather than the normal to-ing and fro-ing across the border that you would have seen in less fraught and difficult times.

After his speech to the CBI Sir Keir Starmer took questions from the audience, and in his answers he hinted at his desire to move away from some aspects of the Jeremy Corbyn policy agenda. These are from Sky’s Joe Pike and the FT’s Jim Pickard.

Chloe Smith, a minister in the Cabinet Office, has announced that she is starting treatment for breast cancer.

T-cell immunity against Covid-19 is likely to be present within most adults six months after primary infection, according to a study.

As PA Media reports, the research from Public Health England (PHE) and the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC) demonstrated robust T-cell responses to Covid-19 peptides at six months in all participants following asymptomatic, mild or moderate infection.

Prof Paul Moss, UK-CIC lead and professor of haematology at the University of Birmingham, described the new data as “reassuring, potentially even encouraging” but said it does not mean people cannot get re-infected.

The research was an observational study and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

People queuing outside a store in Watford today to buy supplies, ahead of the lockdown starting in England on Thursday.
People queuing outside a store in Watford today to buy supplies, ahead of the lockdown starting in England on Thursday. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Sturgeon says Scotland could tighten restrictions soon if Treasury does not offer furlough flexibility

Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland could quickly move to a full lockdown to “stamp down harder” on the spread of Covid-19 by exploiting the opportunity offered by the new 80% furlough funding from the Treasury.

The first minister said that during a Cobra meeting hosted on Monday morning by Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, she and the Welsh and Northern Irish governments had pressed for much greater flexibility in the availability of furlough payments outside England.

She said she hoped the Treasury would confirm later today that the devolved administrations would be allowed to offer 80% furlough payments to employers even if they were not used in England.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, confirmed in a speech to the Tory-leaning Policy Exchange on Monday morning, he had also been lobbying the chancellor to offer that option to devolved governments.

If the Treasury did not do that, Sturgeon said, her government could decide to move very fast to impose level 4 restrictions across Scotland this week to use the time-limited opportunity to offer furlough over the next four weeks. She said:

We can’t rule out and should not rule out going to level 4 for all or parts of the country. We can’t put off vital decisions while we have a debate with the Treasury.

Sturgeon said stricter Scottish rules introduced from September appeared to be working with the surge in new cases starting to subside.

There were no new deaths overnight but the number of new cases fell overnight to 951. The numbers in hospital rose by 32 to 1,225 and by 12 in intensive care, up to 93.

Drakeford says rules for pubs reopening in Wales not yet finalised because of clash with English lockdown

At his press conference Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, says he wanted to be able to say today that pubs and restaurants would be able to reopen next week on the same terms as before.

But he says the announcement of the England-wide lockdown has made that difficult, because it creates a risk of English people crossing the border to drink in pubs in Wales. He does not want to create a situation where the police cannot enforce the ban on people visiting from high-Covid areas outside Wales, he says.

We will be coming out of our firebreak just as England begins a month-long lockdown and it is really important that as we open up, Wales doesn’t become an escape for people seeking to circumvent the new tighter restrictions imposed by the prime minister.

We want to keep Wales safe, and we want to keep the United Kingdom safe as well.

He says that is why there will be further talks before the exact arrangements for the reopening of pubs in Wales are announced.


Starmer's speech to CBI - Summary

Here is the full text of Sir Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI conference. And here are the main points.

  • Starmer said that the government’s decision to delay the lockdown had cost lives. (See 11.58am.) Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, had failed to show leadership, Starmer said.

Even more unforgivable, the central lesson of the first wave was ignored: That if you are to control this virus you have to act early and decisively and that if you don’t the cost to people’s health and to the health of the economy is much, much worse.

One of the things I’ve learnt from this crisis is that it exposes leadership like nothing else. On that count the prime minister and the chancellor have failed. They failed to learn. They failed to listen. And they failed to lead. The result is tragic – but all too predictable.

  • Starmer singled out Sunak for particular blame, accusing the chancellor of being the person who blocked an earlier lockdown. He said:

And the impact on business – and jobs – will be severe. Make no mistake, the chancellor’s name is all over this. His decision to block a circuit breaker, to dismiss it as a “blunt instrument” and to pretend that you can protect the economy without controlling the virus will now mean that businesses have to close for longer, more people will lose their jobs, and the public finances will be worse than they needed to be.

Labour has been increasingly critical of Sunak in its public campaigning recently. With speculation still bubbling away at Westminster about the prospect of Johnson being replaced at some point before the next general election by Sunak, who is far more popular with the public, Starmer has a clear incentive to tarnish his reputation. But blaming Sunak for being responsible for the lockdown delay also implies that Johnson’s own leadership is weak.

  • Starmer said he said he thought “the essential bargain of postwar Britain” had broken down. He explained:

In the last decade something profound has happened in our economy. For years, the essential bargain of postwar Britain was that for every boost in prosperity that reward found its way to the factory floor. But that bargain has broken down.

Earnings have stagnated since 2010. The cost of living – the price of food, housing, utility bills – has gone up and the returns to shareholders have carried on rising. That bargain is no longer being honoured. It’s fuelling resentment, anger and injustice.

  • He said he wanted to restore Labour’s relationship with the business community. He said:

I’m under no illusion about the work we have to do if we’re to win back your trust. We have bridges to build. And today I want to set out the new partnership I want to build between British business and the Labour party.

He said his goal was for “every community and every town [to have] world-class local businesses”. But Labour also expect businesses to contribute something in return, he said.

We’ll expect every business to play its part in delivering the transition to a net zero economy as soon as possible. We’ll expect businesses to work with trade unions, to treat their workers with fairness and dignity, to invest in their skills and their futures, and to provide the kind of secure foundations that a life and future can be built upon.

We’ll expect businesses to compete fairly, and to play by the rules, in spirit and in letter. We’ll expect businesses to leave a lasting footprint in local towns and communities – working with local schools and colleges to upskill and empower young people. And we’ll expect every business to consider the role it can play in promoting greater social justice and tackling the deep-seated inequalities that exist in our society.

  • He said improving skills would be a priority for Labour under his leadership “like never before”.
Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the CBI conference.
Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the CBI conference. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


Drakeford announces Covid rules for Wales once its lockdown ends next week

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, is giving a briefing now. The new national measures for Wales when the country’s “firebreak” lockdown ends next Monday include:

  • The need to maintain 2 metre social distancing and wear face masks in enclosed public places, including on public transport and taxis, will continue.
  • The requirement to work from home whenever possible will remain.
  • People should only meet with their ‘bubble’ in their own home and only two households will be able to form a ‘bubble’. If one person from either household develops symptoms, everyone should immediately self-isolate.
  • Up to 15 people can take part in an organised indoors activity and up to 30 in an organised activity outdoors, providing all social distancing, hand hygiene and other Covid safety measures are followed.
  • All premises, such as restaurants, cafes, pubs and gyms, closed during the firebreak, will be able to reopen. Following the announcement about the English lockdown, ministers are having ongoing discussions with the hospitality sector about the detailed rules for reopening. This includes about meeting in public indoor spaces.
  • As part of keeping our risks to a minimum, people should avoid non-essential travel as much as possible. There will be no legal restrictions on travel within Wales for residents, but international travel should be for essential reasons only.

In addition:

  • All schools will reopen.
  • Churches and places of worship will resume services.
  • Local authority services will resume but based on local circumstances.
  • Community centres will be available for small groups to meet safely indoors in the winter months.


Starmer says PM's decision to delay lockdown has cost lives

In his speech to the CBI Sir Keir Starmer said that the PM’s decision to delay the lockdown had cost lives. He said:

On 21 September, the government’s own scientists - Sage – recommended an “urgent” two-to-three week circuit breaker in order to prevent the virus getting out of control.

On that day there were 11 deaths from Covid-19 and there were just over 4,000 Covid infections. The prime minister failed to heed that warning.

Forty days later. when he finally decided to announce a longer four-week national lockdown –those figures had increased to 326 deaths a day, and 22,000 Covid cases. That is the human cost of the government’s inaction.


Starmer condemns Johnson and Sunak's leadership over Covid

Sir Keir Starmer is addressing the CBI conference now.

He says he will be using his speech to set out his plan for “a new partnership between British business and the Labour party”.

But he starts by speaking about coronavirus, and he says the government has ignored the central lesson from the first wave of the virus: that governments have to act early and decisively.

He says Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, failed to learn this lesson. They failed to listen and they failed to lead, he says.

I will post a full summary of the speech once I’ve read the whole text.


The archbishops of Canterbury and York and the bishop of London may challenge the government over the ban on communal worship in the second national lockdown.

The three most senior figures in the C of E say the ban on services is “a huge loss and since we were not consulted about the lockdown provisions, we fully intend to speak with government about why certain exemptions are made and not others, emphasising the critical role that churches play in every community.”

Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally have written to Church of England clergy encouraging them to keep churches open for private prayer and the streaming of services during the coming lockdown.

Their letter acknowledges that they may have been “overly cautious” in the first national lockdown when they ordered clergy to lock the doors to churches.

We are sure that some of you reading this letter will wish we had made other decisions during the period of the first lockdown, or even challenged the government harder on the decisions it has made. You may be right ...

This is a difficult and challenging time for all of us .... The days are getting shorter and colder. We are anxious for ourselves, for those we love, especially those who are vulnerable and elderly, and for our families. We know that this pandemic is having a devastating effect on our economy and on people’s mental health. Thousands of people are dying. The National Health Service is being stretched to the limit. We also know and must continue to bear witness to the fact that the poorest communities in our nation are suffering the most. We are in for a long haul. It is going to be a hard winter.

Worshippers preparing for a socially distanced service at York Minster.
Worshippers preparing for a socially distanced service at York Minster. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Burnham calls for exams in England to be abandoned this year, saying school absences mean they won't be fair

Yesterday Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, called for schools to be closed during part of the lockdown period to make it fully effective.

This morning, in an interview with Sky News, he said he was also calling for exams to be abandoned this year. He said:

There are kids from more deprived areas in the community that have already spent a long time out of school and there is no way the exams can be fair. We need to have a system of assessment like they’re suggesting in Wales.

Burnham said he thought more pupils in the north-west of England were having to miss school because of the high rate of Covid there. His own daughter was off school again today for that reason, he said.

In her speech to the CBI’s annual conference, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, its outgoing director general, criticised the government’s handling of the lockdown announcement, saying firms could not act on the basis of “speculation and leaks and surmise”.

Warning that companies faced a “bleak” winter, she also set out what she thought the government needed to do. As PA Media reports, she said ministers should:

Keep as much of the economy open as possible - and that could mean “challenging guidance that isn’t evidence-based”, for example, the expected ban on takeaway alcohol sales that will result on “thousands of gallons of beer poured down drains”.

Recognise the Covid-safety of workplaces and keep as much of the economy open as possible.

Provide financial support “for the duration” of the crisis, with particular help for areas such as aviation.

Give clarity on exit plans, the triggers for easing lockdown and the support that will be available.

Use the lockdown as a breathing space to “get our ducks in a row” on issues such as rapid mass testing.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn speaking at the CBI annual conference this morning.
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn speaking at the CBI annual conference this morning. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Prof Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist from Imperial College London whose research was instrumental in persuading the government to launch the first lockdown in March, told Times Radio this morning that it would take two or three weeks to see if the new one was working. He said:

The actual reduction in the R [the reproduction number] should happen basically as of Friday.

[If] people reduce their contacts as we expect them to, then that will be immediate, but it takes time for it to filter through into reduced admissions to hospitals, reduced deaths per day.

That will take time, so it will take us probably two to three weeks to see an effect on numbers.

Ferguson also said a further lockdown might be needed next year because it was always expected that “on-off measures” might be needed. He said:

Clearly, in some ways it will be better to find the perfect set of measures to keep transmission under control without needing to go in and out of lockdown.

It is quite possible, unfortunately, that we may have to revisit this again come early January or something.

I very much hope we don’t, but I think everybody we have spoken to says we have to see what the data shows in the next few weeks, and adjust the policy accordingly.

Neil Ferguson
Neil Ferguson. Photograph: REUTERS/Reuters


Welsh first minister suggests civic responsibility matters more than rules in fighting Covid

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, also did a broadcast media round this morning. Here are the main points.

  • Drakeford confirmed that the 17-day Welsh lockdown would end, as planned, a week today. He said:

We will be asking people to work from home wherever possible but on November 9, a week from today, the firebreak in Wales will be over and large parts of life will be able to resume as they were on October 22.

We went for a 17-day firebreak and explained to people that if we were going to make it short, we’d have to make it really sharp.

He saw this as a bargain with the public, he said:

We made a bargain with people in Wales that if they stuck to everything that we have asked them to do - and as I say it’s been an extraordinary national effort - for 17 days, then we would be able to return to them some of the freedoms that have been denied to them and I don’t intend to step away from that bargain.

  • He said the Welsh government would not know until about two weeks after the lockdown whether it had succeeded. But the data suggested that travel rates in Wales had been much lower than normal, which implied people were following the rules, he said.
  • He said a new “basic set of national rules” would be introduced in Wales for after 9 November.
  • But he also appealed to people to act responsibility - suggesting that public behaviour would count more than government regulations in combating the virus. Speaking ahead of his briefing later, he said:

My main message to people in Wales will be that, whatever the rules are after November 9, please don’t spend your time obsessing about the rules and asking how far you can stretch them. We will only get through this if each one of us asks not what can I do, but what should I do? If we do that, avoid company, travel as little as we can, work from home wherever possible, then we have a path out of this together.

  • He said that Boris Johnson has been ignoring his call to convene a meeting of Cobra, to allow the four nations of the UK to better coordinate their coronavirus policies.
Mark Drakeford.
Mark Drakeford. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Lockdown in England will last 'minimum' of four weeks, says health chief

Dr Susan Hopkins, a deputy director of Public Health England and the medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, gave a series of media interviews this morning. Here are the main points.

  • Hopkins said the lockdown in England would last a “minimum” of four weeks. She said:

The minimum we’ll see a lockdown throughout this period is four weeks. The reason for that is that we are going to have a slowdown, hopefully, over the next two weeks, in the number of cases, but we really need to bring the caseload down much lower than we have right now in order to protect the NHS over the December/January period.

  • She said she could not say whether infections in schools was too high. Asked if the transmission risk in schools was high, she said:

We don’t know exactly.

We do know that the majority of children have infection that’s related to infection in their households, which is clearly the most likely place that children will get infected.

We know that over the summer families and people have been all back in work and going out and socialising, so there are many routes of infection and bringing it into the household ...

We have also agreed that we want our children to be in education, that we think that the damage done from a year of children’s education lost is too high for us to accept as a society.

  • She said one reason why NHS Test and Trace was having difficulty reaching the contacts of people who have tested positive is because people don’t answer their phones. She explained:

Firstly, the teams make every effort to call individuals. We do need to get people’s contact details from the primary case.

Usually, about one in five individuals, there’s no contact details given. So we struggle to find that individual and then cases through the system.

People don’t answer their phones, people don’t want to get a contact from an unknown number.

And that’s part of the reason why there’s increasing local contact tracing, working with directors of public health and local councils, so that their local system can find some of these individuals that the national system cannot.

Dr Susan Hopkins
Dr Susan Hopkins Photograph: Sky News

Scottish Tory leader says it was 'mistake' for PM to rule out second lockdown

Douglas Ross, the new Scottish Conservative leader, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, that it was a mistake for Boris Johnson to rule out a second lockdown. Ross said:

I’ve said that I don’t think anything should have been ruled out and it probably was a mistake of the prime minister to rule out a national lockdown, because if this virus has shown us anything it’s that you can’t rule anything out given the way it develops and how cases can go up and come back down again.

(Johnson never categorically ruled out a second lockdown, but he repeatedly stressed that he wanted to avoid one, at one point describing it as akin to using the nuclear deterrent.)

Ross also said he wanted the furlough scheme to be extended to Scotland if Scotland needs it. The Treasury has said the scheme, paying 80% of wages, will extend to Scotland while it is in force in England, where it has been extended to cover the November lockdown. But the Scottish government wants an assurance that it will have access to the scheme if Scotland is operating a full lockdown while England isn’t.

Douglas Ross.
Douglas Ross.
Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Thousands of lives would have been saved if PM had ordered lockdown earlier, says Sage scientist

Thousands of lives would have been saved if the government had introduced the second lockdown earlier, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies told the Today programme.

Prof Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, is a member of the government’s new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group (Nervtag) advisory committee, as well as a participant in Sage meetings.

Asked what would have happened if the government had implemented a lockdown when Sage proposed one on 21 September, Hayward said:

Well, we can’t turn back the clock. But, I think if we had chosen a two-week circuit-break at that time we would definitely have saved thousands of lives.

And, we would clearly have inflicted substantially less damage on our economy than the proposed four-week lockdown will do.

Hayward said that trying less stringent restrictions first (effectively what the government did, when it ignored Sage in September and opted for regional restrictions instead) was dangerous. He explained:

Early action is essential, and waiting to see if less intense measures are going to work is really quite a dangerous way of doing things.

He also said that failing to control Covid was bad not just for health, but for the economy too.

I think countries like ours that have failed to control Covid have seen they have the highest death rates and the greatest impact on the economy.

And, I think we have repeatedly underestimated Covid and done too little too late, really, to control the virus and save both lives and livelihoods.

Boris Johnson was expected to address the CBI conference today. But he is sending Alok Sharma, the business secretary, instead. Lord Bilimoria, the CBI president, told the Today programme this morning that it was very unusual for the prime minister of the day not to give a speech to the conference.

Yesterday Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the outgoing director-general of the CBI, said a second lockdown would be a “real body blow” for business.


Johnson plays down prospect of lockdown extension ahead of facing Tory critics

Good morning. One of the criticisms of Boris Johnson’s handling of coronavirus is that he has been poor at managing expectations. Temperamentally prone to over-optimism, he has constantly been playing down the extent to which lockdown measures will be required - only to find the Covid reality proving him wrong.

We may be getting a fresh example today.

This afternoon Johnson will be making a statement to MPs about the England-wide lockdown announced on Saturday and, according to the extracts released in advance, he will say that deaths would have been twice as bad as during the first wave without one. He will say:

Models of our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave.

Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.

But Johnson will also play down the prospect of the lockdown having to be extended. He will say:

At the end of four weeks, on Wednesday 2 December, we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.

This line has made the Daily Express splash.

But is this credible? Not according to the rest of Fleet Street, which is placing more weight on what Michael Gove said yesterday about how the lockdown might have to be extended, plus what ministers and officials are briefing on background.

Here is the Times splash.

Here are some quotes from the Times story (paywall), from ministers not inclined to trust the PM’s assurances.

Cabinet ministers told The Times that they believed it would be “very difficult” to end the lockdown if deaths and hospital admissions were still rising.

“There’s a lag to these things,” one said. “The fear will be that in four weeks’ time deaths will be higher than they are now, which will give credibility to people who want to keep national measures in place.”

Another said: “I think it’ll be after the new year. The rate of transmission is not going to go down enough to justify it. Just look at the graphs. It’s going to be a jobs disaster.”

And here are some headlines from other papers flagging up concerns the lockdown will have to be extended.

Johnson will be on his feet in the Commons after 3.30pm and this could turn out to be one of his most awkward parliamentary appearances since the pandemic started. Many Conservative MPs are very unhappy about the lockdown, and it it doubtful whether they will accept his claim that it may only last four weeks. We don’t know yet whether they will vent their anger en masse in the chamber, but if they do, Johnson could face a difficult afternoon.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, gives a speech at the London Conference 2020.

10.30am: Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, gives a speech on the union to Policy Exchange thinktank.

11.40am: Sir Keir Starmer gives a speech to the CBI conference.

12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.

12.15pm: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, gives a briefing where he is expected to announce what will happen in Wales when its lockdown ends next week.

12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a coronavirus briefing.

After 3.30pm: Boris Johnson makes a statement to MPs about his plans for an England-wide lockdown.

Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.

Here is our global coronavirus live blog.

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