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Boris Johnson may scrap Covid restrictions to distract from Partygate, Labour suggests

Shadow health secretary says PM could change rules for ‘party management’ reasons

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Sunday 16 January 2022 14:40 GMT
Mask wearing may remain a requirement (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Mask wearing may remain a requirement (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson may scrap his plan-B Covid restriction for "party management" reasons rather than because it is the right policy, Labour has said.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting suggested that the prime minister could move to ditch the regulations early to get out of political trouble.

Mr Johnson has been engulfed by claims of lockdown rulebreaking for weeks and his party is taking a significant hit in the polls - amid rumours he might be replaced.

Speaking on Sky News on Sunday morning the shadow cabinet minister said Mr Johnson being in post was good for Labour's political prospects but bad for the country.

"If I'm thinking purely through the prism of party politics, then my message is: 'Keep him on, knock yourselves out, you'll be literally knocked out at the next election'," he told the broadcaster.

"But we are still in the middle of a national crisis here and the Prime Minister's actions and judgments matter.

He continued: "It comes back to the point I made about Plan B measures - if the Prime Minister or the Health Secretary from the Conservative Party is coming forward saying, 'We're going to remove Plan B measures', I want to be absolutely confident they are making that decision in the national interest and not in the party interest, for party management reasons.

"I don't have total confidence about that."

Restrictions to tackle Covid are unpopular with some elements in Mr Johnson's party and the prime minister has been balancing the prospect of rebellions and the political views of his MPs with the need for restrictions.

The so-called "plan B" measures, which include mandatory mask wearing in shops and on public transport, are due to lapse on 26 January.

Work from home guidance and Covid passports are expected to be dropped from that date, though some rules on masks may remain.

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