Johnson’s nightmare Plan B debate – Lib Dem speeches (videos)

I used to look forward to a visit to the ice cream after school. “99”, I would cry out. Now 99 has a new meaning. It is the number of Conservative that rebelled against the prime minister on his Plan B yesterday evening. That vote has weakened his authority in his party, by which I mean the political party. A threat to his leadership now looks credible.

The North Shropshire by-election is tomorrow. It is neck and neck between Helen Morgan standing for us Lib Dems and Neil Shastri-Hurst for the Conservatives. If the Conservatives lose the seat, then surely Boris Johnson is finished.

During the debate, Layla Moran said that there is new evidence that Omicron affects children more than Delta has done. She asked: “Where is the plan for children?” She also called for more ventilation in public spaces and schools.

Daisy Cooper told MPs that the removal of restrictions on mask wearing in July was more a political move than health management. She said the UK Health Security Agency had warned that “stringent national measures” will need to be imposed by 18 December.

Wera Hobhouse supported mask wearing and warned sceptics of restrictions that our civil liberties do not include the liberty to harm others. She asked what was being done to ensure the housebound received their boosters.

Hansard transcript.

Daisy Cooper

The Government should never have scrapped the use of masks on 19 July. Their obsession with removing all precautions in one go had far more to do with party management than it did with public health…

It has been reported that the UK Health Security Agency has privately advised the Government that “stringent national measures” will need to be imposed by 18 December… This drip, drip of information is causing huge uncertainty and anxiety. We need clarity and we need it now.

We Liberal Democrats welcome the ambition of 1 million jabs a day… but the way in which the target was announced, with no scrutiny and no details, was a real insult to all those who were left to scramble to pull a plan together on Monday morning….

We have called on the Government several times to call and convene an urgent hospitality summit in order to see what support businesses need right now…

We must also look after people’s mental health. We need supported isolation, not lone self-isolation. There must be financial and practical support for those with caring duties and for those who live alone—and for our schools…

For all these measures to work, there must be trust in the Government… Will the Government come clean about Christmas, or will we see another last-minute U-turn that ruins the Christmas holiday and is too late to alleviate pressure on the NHS?

Wera Hobhouse

I hope this debate does not distract from the fact that we all believe vaccines are the best way to beat covid. We will beat all the conspiracy theories about vaccines and about covid being an invention…

The Liberal Democrats have always supported mask wearing… Mask wearing is not just about keeping ourselves safe or even about keeping our loved ones safe; it is about keeping everyone safe. Yes, we enjoy our civil liberties and we should protect them, but they do not include the liberty to harm others…

The red-list system has now been dropped, but the stress and cost to people who tried to do the right thing has been considerable and needs to be addressed urgently. Will there be compensation for those who faced considerable cost and… will those who are still in quarantine be released immediately?…

I hope the Minister is able to outline the steps being taken to ensure the housebound are able to receive their booster as a priority…

Layla Moran

It took the Prime Minister potentially being on the front pages of all the newspapers on Monday morning to come out in favour of a different approach to plan B. I can only say thank goodness for party-gate. Had that not happened, I wonder how much longer we would have waited for the Government to act…

On omicron itself, the news is startling. Two-day doubling is quite scary. Even if all the population had boosters today, because it takes 12 days, more or less, for a person to develop immunity and become protected, the numbers would increase by 60 times …

Just this morning, there has been new evidence to suggest that omicron affects young children more than delta… The first plea I make to Ministers is where is the plan for children?…

We need to ventilate our public spaces. We need to provide support for social care… We need to ensure that test, trace and isolate works… We need to limit mixing, and if people will not do it themselves, the Government needs to act.

I urge the Government: do not hesitate, act quickly, please do not curb Christmas, and go from B to B-plus now so that we can enjoy the holiday ahead.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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33 Comments

  • Sorry, nothing wrong with Vaccine passports, if they save lives, as they will.

  • Very disappointed that the parliamentary party voted against vaccine mandates for NHS staff.
    If I were to have to undergo an operation, it is right that the surgeon carrying out the procedure is vaccinated against hepatitis.
    If I were a pregnant woman, it is right to expect the midwife to be vaccinated against MMR
    I see this as no different, If I need to see a Dr or Nurse, it is reasonable for me to expect them to have been vaccinated against Covid, considering the risks it poses….Especially to the very elderly and clinically vulnerable for whom vaccines are not fully effective.

    Even a mild case of covid can be extremely dangerous to some, despite being vaccinated, especially those in hospital undergoing surgeries and life saving treatments….

    I feel this was the wrong decision by the party

  • A majority of people in the country, I believe, would take the view that if you are employed in the medical and social care professions the common sense path to take is to get vaccinated for your own sake but above all to protect the patients you are dealing with, I wish the party had supported this mandate as we face this on going catastrophe.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Dec '21 - 10:53am

    I also wish the party had supported this mandate.

  • As someone with a compromised immune system and on the shielding list after a transplant ten years ago, I agree with Matt, and, I believe a couple of days ago, Mick Taylor.

    My Vaccine certificate sits in my wallet alongside my driving licence, Co-op membership card, senior railcard, University ID card, and research card for the National Library of Scotland Archives….. together with a list of current medication, blood group in case of an emergency and next of kin contacts. I also happily carry a donor card should any of my bits ever be regarded as useful.

    I do not regard any of these items as a threat to my civil liberties – indeed the opposite. I’m very sorry to see Lib Dem MPs in the same lobby as Desmond Swayne and Christopher Chope.

  • i think we made a mistake on this.

  • Must admit as an ex-LD I was heartened by these votes against the sort of grinding establishmentarianism #ToryVariant views on these matters.

    I don’t think society should be structured around an NHS so that the covid-privileged who have large houses and probably retired are fending off the younger demographic in fear of their demands when they work out that they can’t take a proper stake in our economy.

    I’m beginning to think again about the Lib Dems.

  • I notice that covid passport requirements for the general populace in the UK are now similar to what we’ve had in northern Spain for some months.

    Requiring proof of vaccination or recent negative test to attend mega-events is entirely reasonable.

    The party has got this wrong.

  • Harry [email protected] It is so heartening to realise that the feeling of community and that we are all in this together, is still alive and well in the country??????

  • Well done to the Lib Dems for opposing this irrational, unscientific, divisive and illiberal measure.

    This is a cross-party issue and opposition came not just from Tory rebels but also from Labour figures such as Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn as well as Caroline Lucas and the Lib Dem’s.

  • @Marco

    How is requiring NHS and social care staff being vaccinated “illiberal”? they still have a choice not to have it done and find alternative employment ….

    By your logic, my Liberty and freedom should allow me to make my own choice and be able to smoke in a Pub or Restaurant, or in the work place or even on a plane, because my freedom and liberty to do as I please with my own health trumps yours

  • Jason Connor 15th Dec '21 - 2:37pm

    I agree with most of the above comments. It is totally illiberal and selfish to jeopardise people’s health and vaccines, vaccine passports, mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing are all important measures in halting the spread of omicron.

  • Jonathan Linin 15th Dec '21 - 5:43pm

    Big, big mistake. We need to protect the NHS, not to mention the many vulnerable individuals in our society.
    If I were Tory agent in the by-election I would be running off a leaflet right now majoring on this.

  • @ Matt

    I would have thought that an unvaccinated Doctor would be better than no Doctor at all but hey ho these are strange times!

    Of course there is a balance to be struck between personal choice and the common good.

    Is it right however that someone could deprive someone else of their chosen livelihood in order to give themselves the illusion of safety?

  • Flaky vote.

    I used to look forward to a visit to the ice cream after school. “99”, I would cry out. Now 99 has a new meaning. It is the number of Conservative that rebelled against the prime minister on his Plan B…

    Andy, your memories of childhood ice creams can remain untainted: only 98 Conservative MPs voted against vaccine passports: Dr. Luke Evans MP (who was a GP and whose wife and father are both GPs and mother a nurse) passed through both Aye and No Lobbies to register a formal abstention.

  • James Fowler 15th Dec '21 - 8:11pm

    Well done to the LDs for finding the moral courage to challenge arbitrary extensions to government powers. Look more carefully too at who else voted against these measures… Diane Abbott, Caroline Lucas, even Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, extraordinary times call for emergency measures. But how for long can times be called extraordinary before they become, well, ordinary? Awarding governments these colossal powers should be the last resort for minimum amount of time. What’s more, commentators want to award THIS government those powers? The sheer complacency about the Big State evident on this website staggers me.

  • Think of the children.

    During the debate, Layla Moran said that there is new evidence that Omicron affects children more than Delta has done.

    Tentative data rather than “new evidence” – it’s not (yet) of an evidential quality. In South Africa, most children in hospital with Omicron are incidental cases – they were admitted for some other reason.

    ‘Is Omicron a danger for kids? SA professor explains high hospitalisation rates’ [6th. December 2021]:
    https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/breaking-is-omicron-worse-in-children-hospital-data-latest-updates/

    With the Omicron variant ripping through South Africa in the minute, it’s no surprise that the virus would be rife in children. Throughout the pandemic, they have been susceptible to catching the disease, but remain highly unlikely to get severely ill from COVID. However, the devil remains in the detail.

    A child being in hospital WITH coronavirus is not the same as a child who is in hospital BECAUSE OF coronavirus. [Professor] McCullogh believes the conflation of these two factors has stirred up some unnecessary concerns.

    She asked: “Where is the plan for children?”

    What do you suggest? Quarantine all children and close the schools? Vaccinate them (even though most will already have some immunity acquired from a previous natural infection)? For children and possibly even young adults the health risks from vaccination may be greater than from Covid…

    ‘Boys more at risk from Pfizer jab side-effect than Covid, suggests study’ [10th. September 2021]:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/10/boys-more-at-risk-from-pfizer-jab-side-effect-than-covid-suggests-study

    Their analysis of medical data suggests that boys aged 12 to 15, with no underlying medical conditions, are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with vaccine-related myocarditis than ending up in hospital with Covid over a four-month period.

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '21 - 11:11pm

    No-one reading the OP would think that the Lib Dems actually voted against the implementation of Plan B! There’s a lot about masks and mask wearing but nothing about Covid passports. If that was the showstopper then at least acknowledge it.

    Leyla Moran wants to go to plan B+ but doesn’t support Plan B itself? Can anyone explain?

  • @Marco

    “Is it right however that someone could deprive someone else of their chosen livelihood in order to give themselves the illusion of safety?”

    Is it right that I should be deprived from enjoying a cigarette with a Beer in my favourite boozer because the person sitting next to me perceived “illusion” of the harms of passive smoking, my liberty should come first right ? and if the non-smoker next to me does not like it, or feels the risk is to great to them, they should take themselves out and find another venue???

    @Harry

    You might not have noticed but the LD parliamentary party did not actually vote for 2 of the restrictions, they voted against covid passports and mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff, the only one they voted in favour for was Masks.
    As you can see from this forum, people are divided on the Issue….

    Personally I am very disappointed in the parliamentary party on this issue and think on matters as important as this, the parliamentary party should be consulting more with its membership for their views…It is not down to a select few within the party to define what Liberalism means and is for the wider membership….

  • @Peter Martin

    I was actually wondering that myself and was meaning to get round to posing the question…
    I am very very dismayed and confused by the Parliamentary party over this issue, they have criticised the Government at every opportunity for their failings and for not acting soon enough, but apart from calling for more money to support individuals and businesses, I do not know what this party is for when it comes to slowing the spread and protecting lives…. This is not opposition and it is not showing that the party as being ready for Government, it’s no better than when the party was being perceived as a protest party and is not what I signed up for 🙁

  • Andy Boddington 16th Dec '21 - 4:37am

    Thanks Jeff. The 99 came from overnight reports and I haven’t had time to study the details in Hansard.

  • Martin Pierce 16th Dec '21 - 7:51am

    Voting with the Tory rebels was both tactically and strategically wrong. You have to vote the way that will save more lives in the circumstances we are now in and you can’t vote on what the government ought to have done previously.

  • I’m reminded of the old rhyme about ‘the company he chooses’…This party has just given Johnson an easy retort the next time a LibDem MP questions his Covid policy..

    Shame!

  • Matthew Haines 16th Dec '21 - 10:57am

    Maybe I have missed something, but Plan B is requiring people to have a vaccine passport OR a negative test before entering major events?

    Not “and” a negative test, it’s “or” a negative test?!

    The vaccine does not prevent you getting or spreading Covid, so does this mean we are allowing thousands of infectious people to spread the virus at will?

    I would rather be surrounded by 1000 people without the virus, than 1 fully vaccinated person with the virus. So hopefully someone can point out my misunderstanding and reassure me that we as a nation aren’t being so dense.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Dec '21 - 12:45pm

    Agreement is rare on most things.

    Here many do think the parliamentary votes were wrong.

    I do think this. And Matt is right, they have no reason not to invove the members. Feeble support for masks as well as trumpet for vaccines, is lousy.

    We need to close public gathering.

    I am hard on this point. Social democracy with top down as well as bottom up social liberalism, is the way on this as well as much in the policy areas we are interested in.

    The notion of a vaccine passport is itself, not as helpful as a negative test, as Mathew says here.

    And our regular dear friend matt is correct, we require the mps, peers, top involve us.

    Ed Davey walked through the lobby for awful coalition stances.

    He backed hideous job centre sanctions for a plastic bag tax but reckons vaccine compulsory for health care staff, draconian?!

    We need a coalition of the sane!

  • matt – “Very disappointed that the parliamentary party voted against vaccine mandates for NHS staff.”

    So its okay for the CQC to require registered care workers to be vaccinated, but its not okay for NHS staff working to not be vaccinated; ‘nice’ to see double standards to the fore…

    At least the vaccine pass has prompted many to belatedly come forward for their second jab/booster – I laughed at their complaints about having to queue, when they could have easily avoided queueing by having their jabs when there were first made available to them.

  • @Roland

    “So its okay for the CQC to require registered care workers to be vaccinated, but its not okay for NHS staff working to not be vaccinated; ‘nice’ to see double standards to the fore…”

    I am not sure what the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary parties position was on care home staff being vaccinated…. But you’re right, I think anyone working within a role providing, primary, secondary or social care should be mandated to have a covid vaccine…..It certainly is not discriminatory as people still have a choice not to have it and find alternative employment….. And as you pointed out in your second paragraph, when push comes to shove, these “sticks” then do encourage take up as we are seeing now, which as far as I am concerned for public health, this is a good thing.

  • Peter Martin 16th Dec '21 - 5:35pm

    @ Matthew Haines,

    “I would rather be surrounded by 1000 people without the virus, than 1 fully vaccinated person with the virus.”

    Available tests aren’t sufficient accurate to show that the 1000 people will be virus free even they have all tested negative. Particularly in the early stages of infection, both PCR and LF tests produce a high number of false negatives. That’s why it is necessary to retest on a daily basis if a Covid infection is suspected.

    So if you do want to venture into a crowded venue, with your hypothetical 1000 people, there can’t be any certainty, regardless of their test or vaccination status. The question is whether one is more effective than the other. Ideally we’d need both. But, if I had to choose one I’d go for vaccination status.

    This has the important secondary effect of encouraging the vaccine reluctant to get their jabs done and keep up to date.

  • David Evans 17th Dec '21 - 3:36am

    matt, while accepting there are good social and medical reasons for vaccination and even compulsory vaccination, I can’t accept your comment that “It certainly is not discriminatory as people still have a choice not to have it and find alternative employment.”

    Presumably then, you would consider China closing factories in Uyhgur areas would be non-discriminatory as they could get work in the Paddy fields or whatever local agriculture practice is adopted in that part.

    As a Lib Dem I could not.

  • Peter Martin 17th Dec '21 - 10:26am

    The result in North Shropshire will leave whoever is in charge of the Tory Party, in the coming weeks, in a much weakened position with regards to Covid policy. They won’t be able to get away with relying on Labour support for a second time and so they won’t be able to control their own right wing Covid sceptics. The Lib Dems may have offered an acceptable alternative.

    If Covid policy is to be used as a yardstick, the far-right group in parliament now includes all Lib Dem MPs. So we can count them out! Despite some of them calling for Plan B plus they actually voted for Plan B double minus. That is plan B but with no Covid passports and no mandatory vaccines for NHS workers. They somehow managed to convince themselves that mask wearing wasn’t the imposition of totalitarian rule by an authoritarian state.

    This was highly irresponsible. The wearing of masks is of course essential, but it won’t be anywhere near enough to control the spread of the Omicron variant in the coming weeks.

  • expats 16th Dec ’21 – 9:20am
    This party has just given Johnson an easy retort the next time a LibDem MP questions his Covid policy..

    The Liberal Democrat vote was principled and consistent with previous statements. When it comes to exchanging retorts with Johnson and other ministers there are plenty of large calibre retorts which the party can fire back…

    ‘Covid passports to become mandatory for large venues in England from next Wednesday’ [8th. December 2021]:
    https://inews.co.uk/news/vaccine-passports-mandatory-large-venues-england-from-wednesday-1342723

    Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government had “no plans” to ever make domestic vaccine passports mandatory, in comments reiterated by his successor, Sajid Javid, as recently as September.

    Mr Javid previously told reporters he was “pleased to say” the Government had scrapped the plans, adding that ministers would not make Covid certification mandatory in certain venues just “for the sake of it”.

    “If the Government is going to propose anything that is going to infringe on people’s freedoms it better have a really, really good case,” he said, adding that vaccine passports presented a “huge intrusion into people’s lives”.

  • Matthew Haines 16th Dec ’21 – 10:57am:
    Maybe I have missed something, but Plan B is requiring people to have a vaccine passport OR a negative test before entering major events?

    You are correct, it’s either (currently) two-vaccine doses OR a “recent” negative Rapid Flow Test, but NOT immunity obtained from a recent infection (which would be much better if with Omicron variant). Also, it’s for venues with a capacity of 500 or more, but this does not include Parliament (presumably the virus now has sufficient evolutionary intelligence to know that it doesn’t have a security pass).

    Not “and” a negative test, it’s “or” a negative test?!

    The Boolean operator is likely academic in the face of the Omicron variant. Data from the Oslo Louise Restaurant party ‘super-spreader’ event shows that the 111 participants were double-vaccinated (between May and November 2021) with the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine AND tested negative by PCR or antigen test before the event, yet 80 (72%) became infected…

    ‘Preliminary findings from study after Christmas party in Oslo’ [9th. December 2021]:
    https://www.fhi.no/en/news/2021/preliminary-findings-from-outbreak-investigation-after-christmas-party-in-o/

    As of 8 December, around 70 % of just over 100 participants at a Christmas party held on 26 November at a restaurant in Oslo have been subsequently diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2. Of those who are infected, 17 are confirmed as being infected with the omicron variant. It is assumed that the majority of cases without sequencing results available at this time are also infected with the same variant. In addition, more than 60 people who visited the restaurant the same evening as the Christmas party have been confirmed as infected with SARS-CoV-2.

    More later…

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