Recommendations by policy team’s COVID specialist – and opportunity for political advances – ignored by leadership
A former Labour policy adviser who spent his final period with the party working on its response to the coronavirus pandemic has revealed that his conclusions on the need for schools to close were ignored by Labour’s leadership.
“a disaster in which the Party, for which I have worked hard in voluntary and professional capacities since 2013, is complicit“
A parting message to the party, backed up by WhatsApp messages and emails seen by the SKWAWKBOX, show that Labour and its leadership have been repeatedly informed of the overwhelming scientific consensus that schools must close – and the improvement in public perception of the party that would result from a firm stance on schools:
[…] mentioned that you would be interested in some feedback. Firstly, I’d like to say that […] has been very supportive and incredibly helpful during a very difficult period, which I wanted to make sure got recognised.
Leaving the Party’s employ, I need to register my deep personal discomfort at the decisions made by the current Labour leadership over the Covid-19 crisis. I worked as a Policy Assistant for two months, looking into the nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, possible policy solutions, and gaps in the social infrastructure that were exacerbating the UK’s failure to get to grips with the pandemic.
The evidence I found made it clear that returning children to school, and adults to the workplace, before test, track & trace had been properly established, posed a serious risk to public health and, consequently, the economy, which would be further threatened should the UK fail to contain the spread of Covid-19.
This was not just my analysis; I was passing on academic studies and scientific reports. Specifically, I strongly advocated the leadership adopt the NEU’s 5 tests for safe school reopening. It seems that the evidence I put forward was largely – possibly completely – ignored by the Labour leadership, which decided instead to launch a campaign of “support” for the government’s position, in contradistinction to the scientific evidence my research had presented.
We are now faced with a situation in which, as predicted, a resurgence in the pandemic is being driven by people of school and working age. For the country, this is a disaster in which the Party, for which I have worked hard in voluntary and professional capacities since 2013, is complicit. I cannot express the sadness I feel at the failure of Labour, to provide meaningful opposition to disastrous government policy at this critical time in our country’s history. This was not inevitable – it was a political choice. Before April, Labour, working with trade unions, had secured essential concessions from the government, most notably with regards to furlough and lockdown. This shows that, had there been the political will, Keir Starmer could have successfully pressured the government into adopting more responsible policies, which would have gained him support across the political spectrum and also respect from the various factions in Labour.
In my role, I was also tasked with conducting polling research. I pointed out that Labour was unlikely to overtake the Tories unless it proposed an alternative to the Conservatives on its response to Covid-19. As I write, Labour is still behind the Tories in the polls. On both policy and political fronts, Labour’s strategy has failed badly. This would be more forgivable had it not been entirely predictable and predicted. If I, as a very junior member of staff could see it coming, I would have expected the Party’s leadership to see it too. As it is, and on personal note, the party’s furlough scheme is coming to an end one month before the government’s cessation of the policy and I have no employment to move on to. I’m sure I will find a way through, but I fear many others won’t, come November.
Emails and WhatsApp chats show a string of messages drawing the attention of party managers to:
- the science showing that any response to the second wave must include closing workplaces and schools
- polling showing that a strong position against the Tories’ flawed strategy would benefit Labour politically
- that claims of the need to curb or dilute lockdown because it would harm vulnerable people is a red herring because the health impacts on them outweight other considerations
In spite of these clear warnings from Labour’s own personnel and the political gains opposition would bring – and the mass toll in needless deaths a prolonged second wave will cause – Keir Starmer has continued to back Boris Johnson’s approach – and to insist that schools must remain open even though it will prolong the lockdown in other areas and increase the damage to the economy.
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