Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has appeared to criticise the Conservative government for considering vaccine certification for domestic use, saying the measures are against “British instinct”.
Starmer said that as infection rates fall following the national vaccine programme, “there will be a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road” of vaccine passports for common activities like going to the pub.
“My instinct is that… [if] we get the virus properly under control, the death rates are near zero, hospital admissions very, very low, that the British instinct in those circumstances will be against vaccine passports,” Sir Keir told The Telegraph on Wednesday.
However, he stopped short of arriving at a party position on vaccine passports, saying only that he would seek a consensus once the government’s report comes out in June.
Some reacted with incredulity that the leader of Britain’s leading left-wing party finally broke from the Conservative government to even suggest challenging its coronavirus strategy. Editor of Lockdown Sceptics and free speech campaigner Toby Young said: “Good grief. The Leader of the Opposition – for perhaps the first time in 12 months – has actually opposed one of the Government’s Covid policies.”
There was left-on-left criticism, however, with the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael chastising Starmer for failing to “decide if he opposes them. Conservatives talk about freedoms but are launching a power grab on civil liberties. Vaccine passports are un-British. They are illiberal.”
“The idea of a centralised government scheme to give you permission to get a pint in a pub or to go to the cinema is a dangerous one and does not represent the society we have always been. Liberals must reject this sort of project,” the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland said on Thursday.
The remarks following similar ones Carmichael made on Wednesday when he said that the government should not be trusted with people’s data.
It won't last.
— Steve Baker MP FRSA (@SteveBakerHW) March 31, 2021
Again, some uttered surprise that the Liberal Democrats — known mostly in the last few years for wanting to overturn the democratic will of the people and stop Brexit — appeared to gesture at standing up for democracy. Bob Moran, a lockdown sceptic and cartoonist for The Telegraph, remarked: “The Liberal Democrats are perilously close to remembering that they are liberal. And democrats.”
Others appeared to imply that the Liberal Democrats’ anti-authoritarian position was more a result of political opportunism than conviction, with Conservative lockdown sceptic MP Steve Baker responding to Mr Moran’s comment: “It won’t last.”
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group, the UK’s oldest conservative think tank, criticised the Tories for moving “so far to the left” that they had “outdone Labour” in its considering vaccine passports and warned the party would do itself “irreparable damage” if it forced them on Britons.
Mr Harris-Quinney told Breitbart London: “What we have seen over the last year is that on a range of issues, the Labour Party is pitching themselves to the right of the Conservatives, on justice, on British industry, and now on lockdown and vaccine passports.
“It is undoubtedly opportunism from Labour, but the Conservative Party must answer how they have moved so far to the left they have outdone Labour.”
The Bow Group chairman continued: “The only reason Boris won an 80 seat majority was because the public perceived the Conservatives were moving back to conservatism and embracing the Brexit ideology; they have done the opposite in government.
“Vaccine passports would be an abomination of liberty. They are unquestionably un-British. The Conservative Party will do themselves irreparable damage in forcing them on the public, who are as usual far more sensible than the government and will reject them wholeheartedly.”
Lib Dems Slam Vaccine Certs: Some Things Don’t Mix, Like ‘Government and People’s Data’ https://t.co/QGWPpsZe1W
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 1, 2021