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Sir Keir Starmer pushes for emergency legislation to deal with anti-vax campaigners

Sir Keir Starmer appeared on today’s Good Morning Britain, where he called for legislation against anti-vaxxers and warned that the misinformation will ‘cost lives’.

Speaking to Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, the Labour leader was asked about those protesting outside hospitals, saying: “We have to deal with the anti-vax campaigns, because they will cost lives. If we need to pass emergency legislation to deal with them, I would be quite prepared to work with the government on that, we could pass it in a couple of days in parliament. The sooner we do that frankly the better, because for many NHS staff it is really distressing. They are under huge pressure… they are all doing their level best… and to come out and have to confront that or even hear that, is against the national interest and if we need legislation, I will sit down with Boris Johnson… That misinformation will cost lives, we need as many people vaccinated as possible, we all need to give people confidence to be vaccinated.”

Asked how his wife, who works in a hospital, is finding it, he said: “She is very worried. Every night we have a discussion about the levels of concern in the hospitals. The worry is not only about the levels of coronavirus, but also all the other routine stuff that needs to be done which has been parked or delayed in many respects.”

Starmer went on to stress that more needs to be done to get the vaccines rolled out, saying: “This has to be the biggest national effort since the Second World War, it has to be mission critical. We need volunteers… it needs to be a national effort and we all need to play our part in that. The first question is, what is the capability of the NHS? Various experts are confident that they can get to two million a week pretty quickly… the manufacturers have to come on stream to make sure that the doses are available… this is a contract with the British public in a way, you are enduring now this lockdown, we all have to deliver on the vaccine and the government needs to lead on that.”

On the subject of schools closing, he added: “It’s a really tough call, I absolutely accept that. The truth is I wanted schools to stay open, we are obviously talking about primary schools this week… In principle I have always been of the view that schools should be the last place to close. I couldn’t see the sense in some areas of retail still being open and schools being shut.  So I wanted them to stay open because once you have closed schools, as we are now going to see, they are going to be closed for some time and that has a huge impact, particularly on more vulnerable and disadvantaged children who won’t be able to learn at home in the same way.”

Asked how he is going to ensure that the government delivers the laptops and the access to home learning resources that a lot of students don’t have, he said: “We are back in Parliament tomorrow, so I will get my first chance in Parliament to press the government on this, we have been pressing them for months… you may remember last year, Gavin Williamson promised millions of devices would be made available and in the end, 40 percent of what was promised was delivered. We can’t go there again…”

After Piers labelled Williamson “utterly useless”, Starmer said: “You have put your finger on one of the major problems here, certainly in education. The government promises and it doesn’t deliver.  Or it won’t see a problem, pushes away challenge, pretends it’s not there, only to have to u-turn again… That is what destroys confidence. The thing that is chipping away at the government is the continual over promising and under delivering.”

On the Prime Minister’s u-turns, he added: “Because he doesn’t want to be unpopular, he won’t take difficult decisions until they are upon him and it all becomes much worse because they are left to the eleventh hour.”

That said, he stressed the importance of the opposition and the government sharing the same message so that the lockdown works. Starmer said: “We have got to support the government whatever we think about delay and dithering, we have got to make the restrictions work. That means I must openly support the government, and I will, and I have told the Prime Minister that… it is very important that we say the same thing as the government.”

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