Keir Starmer – 2021 Letter to Boris Johnson Over Self-Isolation

The letter sent by Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Opposition, to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, on 18 July 2021.

Dear Prime Minister,

During the pandemic the public have sacrificed so much to stick to the rules. At a time when we need to maintain confidence in self isolation, parents, workers and businesses will be wondering what on earth is going on in Downing Street.

Today’s latest fiasco of yourself and the Chancellor being magically selected for a testing trial so you could avoid isolation like the rest of us is just the latest example of the Conservatives fixing the rules to benefit themselves, and only backtracking when they were found out.

The reported comments that you “did look briefly at the idea” of taking part in a daily test pilot scheme will provide no reassurance to the public, to whom this will look very much like one rule for Conservative ministers, and another rule for the public.

There are still serious questions that remain:

How did the trial to avoid self-isolating include the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster?

How was inclusion in the trial decided?

How long was it before the trial confirmed you could be released from isolation?

When did you travel to Chequers? Why did both your and Chancellor’s original statement say you would continue to work from Downing Street?

Where is the Chancellor self-isolating?

If the pilot has been letting Conservative ministers avoid self-isolation since May, why has this not been made public sooner?

Will the Government release a full list of Conservative ministers covered by the self-isolation trial?

Have any other ministers benefitted from the trial and avoided self-isolation?

How many people have deleted the NHS app?

Will join me in urging the public to continue to follow the rules on self-isolation?

There are hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to miss family events, close businesses and go without pay because they have done the right thing. And yet ministers have played the system. This cannot go on. The public need clear leadership at this time, not this hypocritical way of trying to do things that just undermines confidence in the rules and puts lives at risk.

As news broke this morning of your initial decision to avoid self-isolation, the many thousands of people across the country who are self-isolating would have wondered why they were not offered the same opportunity.

Over the past week, there have been children sent home from school after a positive case in their bubble, NHS staff working overtime to cover staff absences and businesses struggling to run a normal level of service due to their employees self-isolating. These people deserve an immediate answer from ministers about the Cabinet’s participation in this scheme.

I have been sent examples of businesses and individuals struggling to do the right thing and follow the rules. They would have benefited from this policy. Examples I wish to highlight include:

– A Midlands transport provider concerned that high numbers of drivers and control room staff isolating will negatively impact on services and lead to cancellations

– Train drivers in Sheffield self-isolating and leading to service cancellations this weekend

– Large numbers of staff at Ipswich hospital who had to take time off because they or their family had to isolate, causing elective surgeries to be cancelled

– Security staff at Heathrow Airport having to self-isolate, causing disruption

– Bin collections being cancelled due to staff shortages caused by self-isolation

In addition, the tube workers on London Underground, which is now facing staff shortages due to self-isolation leading to delays and cancellations, could have benefited from the trial. But contrary to the Government’s claims, Transport for London has not yet been confirmed as a participant in the scheme.

The public deserve an answer to these questions. I look forward to his response, and trust that a minister will come to Parliament on Monday to explain this system for the benefit of our constituents.

Keir Starmer

Leader of the Labour Party