UK PM criticised from all sides as England reopens
While the rest of the U.K. remained at home, England underwent its first day on May 13 of some businesses reopening amid mounting opposition criticism of the government’s easing of the lockdown.
England saw an increase in the number of people traveling around the country and using public transport.
The government said people should practice social distancing on public transport, or walk or cycle to work, with critics saying the advice was practically impossible to follow in reality.
A video showing people leaving a packed bus in Stratford, east London, at 6.30 a.m. this morning went viral, provoked criticism of the government’s advice encouraging people to go to work set out in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s
speech on Sunday.
The government shifted the responsibility to commuters, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps telling the BBC this morning that if transmission rates increased, the government would have to step in.
“We all know what that means - it means going back to staying at home,” he said.
“We have got a big team of marshallers going out through Network Rail, Transport for London, we have got the British Transport Police out there, and we are even bringing in volunteers to remind people that we don’t want to see
Shapps admitted, however, that he personally would not get onto a crowded bus or tube.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer addressed the nation in a speech broadcast on the BBC on Monday in his capacity as leader of the opposition.
“What we needed from the prime minister last night was clarity and reassurance," Starmer said, adding that what the public got instead were more questions than answers.
“The prime minister said he was setting out a road map, but if we are to complete the journey safely a road map needs clear directions," he said. "Why are some parts of the United Kingdom now on a different path to others?" he asked.
With one eye on the future, Starmer fired a shot across the bow: “After all this, all the sacrifice and the loss, we can’t go back to business as usual.”
“We can’t go back to a society where we clap our carers once a week, but where half of our care workers are paid less than the real living wage,” he said.
“And we can’t go back to a country where we don’t invest in our public services but expect our frontline workers to protect us.”
In an article for The Scotsman published on Monday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hit back at the national U.K. government’s change of advice.
“I am reiterating, in the strongest possible way, that the message to people here in Scotland remains Stay at Home,” wrote Sturgeon, who leads the nationalist Scottish National Party.
“The new slogan introduced by the Prime Minister for the people of England, to “Stay Alert”, is, I am afraid to say, vague and imprecise, and dilutes the crystal clear call for people to remain at home,” she wrote. “Clarity
of the message is vital, and for that reason, I have asked the U.K. Government not to deploy its Stay Alert ad campaign in Scotland.”
“We must not squander the progress made by easing up too soon,” she wrote. “Let me be blunt about the consequences if we do that more people will die and, instead of being able to loosen restrictions, we will be faced with having to tighten them. That is a risk we cannot afford to take.”
In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Sunday: “Our advice has not changed in Wales.”