Ed Davey: PM dodged the difficult decisions and acted too late

Boris Johnson as good as said in his address announcing a new “March-style” lockdown that we we would have succeeded in beating Covid if it hadn’t been for this pesky new variant. The variant he’s known about for three months and done little to combat. Brazen or what?

Not even 36 hours had passed since his Marr interview yesterday, when he said that parents should send their kids to school today. Now, the decision he should have taken before Christmas has been made.

Ed Davey pointed out these errors of judgement in his reaction to the PM’s statement. He had earlier called for a lockdown, and so the party will be supporting these measures. However, we also want to see better support for those who have so far been excluded from the Government schemes, investment in mental health services and an increase to Carer’s Allowance.

Ed said:

This is the public health policy the Prime Minister should have announced before Christmas, but yet again, Boris Johnson ducked the difficult decisions, failed to listen to experts and acted too late.

Just yesterday morning Johnson was telling parents that schools were safe and children should definitely go. Today he is telling us that they must all move to remote learning but without any proper future plan.

The Prime Minister’s failure to act earlier means we are seeing record numbers of new infections, a rising death rate, hospitals overwhelmed and NHS and care staff exhausted.

With this new lockdown, Liberal Democrats believe it’s urgent that the Government announce a new comprehensive economic plan for businesses and the self-employed; a plan to increase Carer’s allowance in line with the increases in Universal Credit and must fully take account of the impact of these developments on the mental health of young people and vulnerable individuals who are going through an incredibly difficult time.

All around the world, the evidence is that acting early is critical to minimising damage to the economy and protecting public health. We need a Prime Minister who can act in time, not one who acts when it is too late.

There’s one interesting difference between the PM’s statement and the announcement by Nicola Sturgeon this afternoon.

In March, we were only supposed to leave our houses once per day for exercise. That still seems to be the case in England. However, Nicola Sturgeon said that no such limit would apply up here. She said that it was important for physical and mental health to be able to leave home more often.

I’m also relieved about that because my two dogs are a living nightmare for one person to walk on their own.

But it’s now up to us all to look out for each other. I’ve taken the attitude all along that I need to behave like I have the virus and am doing my best to keep it to myself. I stay away from people as much as possible and follow the rules.

But, as the doctor who was always getting mistaken for the Philip Lee who joined us last year says on Twitter, we all need to do it.

We need to look after each other and understand that each person’s experience of this will be different. When we entered the first lockdown last March, the nights were getting lighter, the weather was lovely and we could get out in our gardens. Now the nights are dark, it’s bloody freezing out there and I haven’t actually been out of my house in nine days because it’s sheet ice outside my house. It’s a miserable part of the year at the best of times. This year it’s so much more difficult.

Some people will be terrified about the financial hit that the new lockdown will mean. Some haven’t had any government help in 9 months and repeated calls from Lib Dem MPs and others for more support have fallen on deaf ears.

People in poor and overcrowded housing will find being cooped up so much more difficult than people who have gardens and more pleasant environments.

None of this is easy. However scientifically necessary these measures are, they have detrimental impacts on people in so many different ways. Let’s do what we can to understand and help others through these difficult and uncertain times.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • In reality there are no substantial differences between the approach taken by the main parties. They are arguing about timings, u-turns and delivery but not the substance.

    Labour and the Lib Dem’s are desperate to outflank the Tories as being tougher and more hardline on lockdown but they are struggling to find the space they can realistically operate in. It is a bit like Iraq in that sense where the Tories were goading Blair for not having acted against Saddam sooner.

    It is popular to try to frame Johnson Hancock and co as libertarians but in reality they are more like school prefects – you can’t outdo them at bossiness and making up new rules.

    And no-one is talking about the detrimental social impacts that you mention at all, they are not trying to justify the damage as worth it just hoping to ignore the issue altogether and hope the media don’t report it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Jan '21 - 1:55am

    Caron, more helpful than Ed, here, the statement by Starmer was less party political than the one of Ed. I have been calling for more than the govt. but support this decision wholly. I do think the spokespeople of the Liberal Democrats ought to sound more cross party, when they have not been more strong on the increase in measures more than the govt, only Layla and the APPg have been stronger.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Jan '21 - 1:58am

    A link to something relevant by me…https://theartsandhumanityscause.com/6571-2/

  • John Marriott 5th Jan '21 - 7:33am

    Yes, Lorenzo! Spot on! I just wish that ALL politicians stopped trying to be wiser after the event. For goodness sake, stop trying to score political points. Both my daughters in law , one in Manchester and one in Lincoln, were close to tears yesterday as both have been working from home for some time and both have two children of primary school age. My wife and I are still figuring out how we can help the one, who lives near us.

    To be frank, if you want to blame anyone, Mr Davey, BLAME THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT!

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Jan '21 - 7:50am

    Mr Johnson was informed about the new variant 3 weeks ago. Still, we’re well on our way to turning into dodgy offshore financial haven on thames, so I suppose his backers think he’s doing well.

  • Alas the criticism of the Government is not merely being wise after the event. We have been aware of this Government’s style for a long time now and the last minute responses should come as no surprise. As in a law court sometimes blame has to be publicly identified, not least in the name of accountability. Always beware of reasons for avoiding politics, and indeed party politics. In World War 2 much political conflict was put on ice and Attlee’s behaviour during the coalition is very instructive. But until Mr Johnson asks for a coalition or Government of National Unity of some sort (which would provide alternative channels of accountability) he deserves no favours. I do however accept that the tone of opposition matters and traditional PR-speak is largely inappropriate at the moment.

  • Barry Lofty 5th Jan '21 - 10:01am

    What do people want, getting in bed with the Tories or attacking them when they are found wanting in all areas of responsible government, keep up the good work Ed

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Jan '21 - 10:55am

    @John Marriott
    “To be frank, if you want to blame anyone, Mr Davey, BLAME THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT!”

    I do wonder, given the pig’s breakfast our own ‘government’ has been making over handling this pandemic, how much blame the UK would be taking if it had started here rather than China.

    And in the case of the UK variant there seems to be a good case for blaming the UK for failing to keep adequate tabs on the causes of the rise in cases in SE England and issuing proper warnings when, as is pointed out, they knew about it in September.

  • Helen Dudden 5th Jan '21 - 11:28am

    I don’t understand the situation.
    Yesterday afternoon, I was phoned by the dental unit, I have an appointment next Tuesday. Meanwhile, we are in total lockdown, it changes again over night. We are told we are in dangerous times. So, I’ve cancelled the surgery appointment at present, it in a practice where other procedures happen. I could need hospital treatment.
    This surgery was closed, and had been closed prior to the last lockdown. Now it’s fine it seems, being in lockdown and open. We are constantly bombarded with information, that is fact or fiction?
    My grandchildren worry about me, my grandchild in Spain, is worried he will never see again, my other grandchild rings me crying.
    I would say to those sending out the scare messages, think.
    Bristol airport was open to visitors, it was not controlled in any way.
    We all make errors of judgment, but if we continue to repeat the same over and over again, that means we have lost the reason and understanding to remedy any situation.
    The racing never stopped at Cheltenham, business as usual.

  • John Marriott 5th Jan '21 - 12:41pm

    On the other hand it could be our expertise at genome sequencing that enabled us to identify a variant of COVID that is, in fact, everywhere and spreading fast. As for the virus itself, unless you know more than the rest of us, it’s pretty clear where it started. HOW it started is still open to conjecture, which is why the WHO’s efforts to find out are so important, especially as there are undoubtedly other viruses in the animal world just waiting for the opportunity to jump the species barrier.

    You will notice that I’m not singling out the inhabitants of the PRC, just its rotten government, which even now is putting obstacles in the way of the WHO in its search for answers.

    Call it sour grapes or even racist if you want; but I bet I’m not alone when I say that what I really can’t stomach is how China has bounced back economically and is clearly set to profit from something it almost certainly never intended to unleash on mankind but which, by its secrecy and its inability to come clean, made a possibly containable situation devastatingly far, far, worse.

  • @Helen Duddon “The racing never stopped at Cheltenham, business as usual.”

    It’s likely that Dido Harding (the Baroness Harding of Winscombe to thee and me), member of the Johnson/Cameron chumocracy, Tory peeress, member of the Jockey Club, and by now largely disappeared from view Head of our “World Beating Test & Trace system” had something to do with that , Helen.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Jan '21 - 2:15pm

    It is not about withdrawal of criticism. The government have made the right decision now. That we can say, those of us who have a definite view as to what they ought to do. But those who only criticise the incompetence ought to be a little more measured as to the strategy.

    I would welcome colleagues read my link . In my piece i advocate a zero covid approach attempting the elimination of it.

    John is correct to allude to where the virus originated. Political correctness ought not have anything to say here. It is obvious some of the best countries are of the same region. Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, democracies, mainstream. China is not. The origins are either malicious, unlikely, ie it was intentional in a lab, or outrageous, probably, to do with animals in markets.

    Ed has much to do to reveal his good side, his warmth, and substantial ability. He is too negative and personal and kneejrk.

    Starmer is dull too often, but very pm material and measured.

  • @John Marriott…………“To be frank, if you want to blame anyone, Mr Davey, BLAME THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT!”………….

    That ship has sailed!
    If a vessel sinks you can blame the storm but if the ship has an incompetent captain, has not been maintained, the lifeboats neglected, etc., etc. then most of the blame rests with the shipowners…

    We are effrectively back where we started! We are in the lockdown position that everyone (except for the PM and cabinet) knew. weeks ago. was essential…Yet again, action is far too late; yet again, ministers doing the rounds explaining how ‘we’re ahead of the curve’…

    The government has learned nothing from the last year;

  • At least we seem to have handled vaccine procurement infinitely more professionally than the EU.

  • In my lifetime it’s been my fortune, but mostly misfortune, to live under fifteen different individual Prime Ministers of the UK (the same I guess as Marriott J. (minor)). Some I was too young to take much notice of though I came to appreciate them later (especially Clem Attlee).

    Having sat through the latest Prime Minister’s Press Conference on TV just now I have to say I can’t remember a more dissembling inadequate response to questions than from Jabber Johnson just now – (apart possibly from Blair on the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq).

    The man is clearly inadequate, not up to the job and completely unfit for purpose whatever the Chinese may or may not have done. He makes Eden look a class act.

    Floreat Etona my………….

  • John Marriott 5th Jan '21 - 7:14pm

    @David Raw
    The first prime minister I can remember was Anthony Eden. As regards Johnson’s ability, I am reminded of that classic poem beloved of rugby players everywhere. It began; “T’was on the good ship Venus”; but the verse that particularly comes to mind begins with “The captain of this lugger “ and ends with “ from one ship to another”. It will be interesting how many people can fill in the words in between!

  • john oundle 5th Jan '21 - 7:52pm


    ‘At least we seem to have handled vaccine procurement infinitely more professionally than the EU.’

    France has a three stage process:

    -GP appointment
    -Sign vaccination approval form
    – Further GP visit for vaccination

  • Laurence Cox 5th Jan '21 - 8:02pm

    There are one or two writers worth reading on the otherwise-excrable Unherd, here is one of mine (Tom Chivers):


    (the other one is Giles Fraser).

  • @john oundle, you are right about the French procedure. They must have a consultation five days before, then a cooling off period in case they change their mind. The French had only vaccinated 352 people by the beginning of this week.

    But my comment was about procurement. The EU ordered 300 million doses of the French Sanofi product only to discover that it had trouble with its clinical trials. The EU had turned down the Pfizer product on cost grounds but in desperation had to return but by this time most of the product had been allocated. Anxious member states are now waiting for the EU to approve the Oxford product.

    The Germans are furious. With typical efficiency they saw the need to organise procurement at an early stage but Merkel, anxious to be seen as a good European, stopped this iniative and handed it to Brussels as an EU wide activity.

    There are concerns that a shortage of vaccine could take months to sort out.

  • john oundle 6th Jan '21 - 12:07am

    ‘With typical efficiency they saw the need to organise procurement at an early stage but Merkel, anxious to be seen as a good European, stopped this iniative and handed it to Brussels as an EU wide activity.’

    A lot of pressure was applied by Macron, my wife’s French family along with most citizens couldn’t give a …… whatever where the vaccine comes from, but Macron now has exclusive ownership of the mess.

  • Peter Martin 6th Jan '21 - 8:10am

    “Responding to reports UK has opted out of the EU’s coronavirus vaccines scheme, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said……..,this Government’s stubborn unwillingness to work with the European Union through the current crisis is unforgivable.”

    Looks quite a smart move now!


  • Paul Murray 6th Jan '21 - 9:55am

    In the Netherlands, there is widespread concern that the first vaccinations are only being given today. The government says there are logistical issues with the Pfizer vaccine and their planning had been focused on distribution of the less demanding Astra Zeneca vaccine.

    Merkur.de reports that schools in Bavaria are now to remain closed, and that there is concern that the number of reported infections is far below the true number due to the Christmas holidays as many health authorities have not reported any numbers, although there were over 1000 deaths reported today.

    Over the border in Austria there is deep concern that only 6770 vaccinations have been given as of today.

    If you look around Europe the issues being faced are similar to those being seen in the UK. There are justifiable criticisms of the government’s actions (such as the one day back at school fiasco) but overall it’s not dissimilar to the story elsewhere.

  • Antony Watts 6th Jan '21 - 9:58am

    I dislike this pandering approach “Conservative should have done this.. that or the other”

    We need to say clearly and only “Lib Dems will do this… that… and this other…”

  • Peter Martin 6th Jan '21 - 9:49pm

    ” (The) shutdown is being extended and tightened. But will that be enough? The country has squandered many months with half-hearted strategies. We are all paying the price for that”

    Sound familiar?

    Except this is being written about Germany not the UK. Whereas their devolved structure was seen as a benefit during the first wave, the lack of a strong central authority is now seen as a hindrance. They are now having a similar experience to us with daily death tolls in excess of a thousand,


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