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Anneliese Dodds accused of “sitting on the fence” over lockdown easing

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor and MP for Oxford East, has been accused of “sitting on the fence” after avoiding stating whether the Labour Party supports the government’s easing of lockdown.

Despite the warnings of some senior scientists that it is still too early to relax strict lockdown measures, the government has pressed ahead with plans to partially reopen schools and to allow groups of up to 6 people to meet from Monday.

Appearing on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Dodds was asked several times whether she supported the government’s move to ease restrictions, but avoided answering the question directly. The government’s decision does not appear to align with conditions that Labour had demanded be met before giving people more freedom, including the roll out of a national phone app and 250,000 tests a day, neither of which have been achieved.

The Labour leader Keir Starmer had said on Friday that the party would not support a gradual easing of lockdown until these conditions were met.

In response to Mr Marr’s conclusion that “given your own tests, it seems to be that Labour must oppose unlocking”, Ms Dodds sought to distance Labour from the decision-making process, suggesting that Labour does not have access to the same scientific information as the government. She said: “You know the government has taken that decision and the opposition can’t take that decision because we don’t have the scientific advice in front of us.”

The short interview provoked frustration amongst some Labour supporters, with many writing on twitter angered at the perceived lack of clarity in Labour’s position, with one user stating: “What has become of Labour? It’s awful.”

However, Dodds did respond to the threat of a resurgence in coronavirus cases leading to a reintroduction of lockdown measures, and in doing so acknowledged the risks associated with an over-hasty easing of lockdown. She stated: “As you would expect as Shadow Chancellor, I’m very, very concerned about what could happen to our economy if that happens, as well as the health impact.” 

Anneliese Dodds stressed that parents should not feel pressured to return their children to school if they fear it is unsafe. She also challenged the government’s “lack of preparedness” that has led to the Prime Minister’s promise that “we will have a test, track and test operation that will be world-beating and yes it will be in place by June 1st” being unfulfilled, calling for the government to act “urgently” to clarify the scheme. 

Image credit to Cicero Group/ Flickr.

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