In an appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain last week Keir Starmer voiced his support for emergency legislation to deal with anti-vaxxer campaigns.
This could mean jail time for those spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Without doubt, anti-vaccine myths are dangerous. But Starmer’s suggestion of criminalising these campaigns only risks fuelling them further.
Beyond the significant free speech implications, this idea is simply bad policy.
Conspiracy theorists, particularly those in the social media era, will process information in light of what they already believe to be true.
Threatening criminal punishment will not stop the spread of misinformation. It will only fuel anti-vaxxers’ beliefs that they have uncovered a hidden truth which the powers-that-be are desperate to keep quiet.
If Starmer was serious about the rise of dangerous conspiracy campaigns he should highlight how social media algorithms—particularly Facebook’s—encourage the spread of misinformation.
Instead he suggests criminalising gullibility—policy that would be entirely self-defeating.
There is also little to suggest at this point that anti-vax campaigns are impacting the rollout of the vaccine.
The real obstacle preventing rapid and widespread vaccination is not a lack of willing participants, it is the continued criminal incompetence of the Tory government.
The Tories are vaccinating at a rate too slow to keep pace with rising infections.
They have shunned potential vaccinating partners and have failed to guarantee coverage for care home residents.
And the 12-week wait for a second dose has sparked concerns.
The government backed itself into a corner with its Covid-19 non-strategy. It has made vaccination the only viable way out of the pandemic and the only way to prevent more rampant death.
Now the Tories are at risk of failing to deliver on the vaccine.
But where does the leader of the opposition place the blame?
People who spend too much time on Facebook.
No praise for Welsh government
The Senedd, led by Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour, did well in opinion polls for their handling of the first wave of the pandemic.
This was despite the deaths of more than 1,000 care home residents and the catastrophic spread of cases.
However public confidence plummeted when cases rose dramatically across the country after the October firebreak.
Health minister Vaughan Gething was reluctant to cancel the easing of restrictions at Christmas, even though Wales had the second worst infection rate in the world.
Cancellation of non-urgent care and 12 hour ambulance waits are becoming frequent, and there are already delays in rolling out the vaccine.
Fingers are now being pointed at the delays in announcing a lockdown, inadequate and chaotic testing systems, and keeping schools and colleges open.
Education minister Kirsty Williams has now been forced into a U-turn over schools, which remain closed until half term.
But this was after thousands of teachers refused to work in unsafe environments. UCU union members should now follow their lead.
Repurpose for the climate
I’ve been following the struggle of the Rolls-Royce workers in Barnoldswick in your pages. I’m surprised the trade unions haven’t targeted this site.
It’s a perfect place to use the principles of the 1976 Lucas Plan and cash from the government’s infrastructure bank to convert production to new green technologies.
Barnoldswick has a highly skilled workforce and young people in abundance. Train them through apprenticeships, at the premises Rolls-Royce no longer want to use to produce their highly polluting jet engines.
Rolls-Royce and other aerospace industries have received vast amounts of government money over the years. So a nominal £1 for the site seems a fair price.
If we had a socialist government, the workers at the site would already have secured a future for themselves and future generations of workers.
And equally importantly—the environment.
Solidarity with school workers
If no education worker was in a trade union—from teachers, support staff, admin staff and headteachers—then last week’s lockdown would not have happened.
Some sort of lockdown might eventually have happened but announced later for a shorter duration and with less depth.
Boris Johnson delayed his lockdown announcement until Monday night. Not because he is incompetent, but because he was testing whether the teachers and support staff had the organisation to close primary schools.
Thankfully enough of them did. And this support was snowballing.
The Tories faced the prospect of a lockdown being implemented from below by education workers through their unions.
This was spearheaded by the NEU, itself spearheaded by its activists. The government announced the lockdown on Monday night to take back control.
Education workers have won a massive health and safety victory for our entire class. We are nowhere near being out of the Covid-19 woods yet, but at least we are not rushing deeper into those woods.
The task now is to ensure enough economic and societal support for all adversely affected by the lockdown. Then fighting the virus and not fighting the lockdown can remain our focus.
Solidarity with, and thanks to, education trade unionists.
Unite finance sector delegate to Unite regional committee
Readings risking lives?
Greedy Morrison Data are sending out meter readers—for BG, EDF and the rest—in the most highly infected areas in the country.
They are telling their workforce that they are key frontline workers. These workers are on minimum wage, putting their lives at risk to fulfil contracts.
If they are key workers, get them vaccinated.
No hope in Joe Biden
US president-elect Joe Biden won’t only destroy the planet with his polluting climate policies, he is also pro-war. His policies will also destroy the planet.
Starmer failed on education
Tory failures have killed working people and made them work in dangerous conditions.
Good on unions such as the NEU for taking steps for safer workplaces to reduce transmission in our communities to protect people.
They’ve done more than the Tories or Keir Starmer’s pathetic opposition.
Teachers and education workers will never forget that Labour leader Keir Starmer has sold them down the river in a canoe, without a paddle.
Keep our schools safe
This is one deadly and dangerous government! What a time for some to decide an arrogant, inept and immoral individual would be a good leader for this country.
That choice has resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
What’s the safety situation in the most expensive and prestigious private schools like Eton?
I want the same safety precautions as them, if you please.