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7 October 2020updated 23 Jul 2021 10:01am

Four things we learned from this week’s PMQs

Keir Starmer is laying the groundwork for a government defeat on the 10pm curfew, and three other things we learned at Prime Minister's Questions

By Ailbhe Rea

Keir Starmer is laying the groundwork to change position on the 10pm curfew

With Conservative rebels already indicating that they plan to vote against the 10pm curfew when it comes before the Commons on Monday, it now it looks likely that Labour will join them. Keir Starmer asked for the scientific basis for the rule, and said that without evidence the government should review it. The PM could not provide such evidence, but pointed out that the curfew was imposed “on the same basis on which [Starmer] accepted it two weeks ago”. Labour initially supported the measure but, as concerns grow about the impact on the hospitality sector, it seems likely that the opposition will find common cause with Tory rebels on this issue. 

Local lockdowns are becoming harder to justify

The Labour leader unveiled new research that demonstrates that infection rates have risen in 19 out of the 20 areas where local lockdowns have been imposed, and revealed the uncomfortable fact that infection rates are just as high in parts of Boris Johnson’s constituency as they are in areas with local lockdowns. It is a sign of the growing difficulty the government faces in justifying the seemingly arbitrary imposition of stricter measures in certain areas but not in others, and the growing need for detailed answers regarding the basis of these decisions.

David Johnston is a 2019 intake MP to watch

David Johnston, the new Conservative MP for Wantage as of the 2019 general election, wrote a widely shared article this week on the lack of nuance in the public discussion of diversity, arguing that there is too much focus on symbols and a failure to consider both ethnic diversity and low incomes in conjunction with each other. Before entering parliament, he was chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, a highly regarded charity that supports high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds. His PMQ, on the same theme as his article, reminded the Prime Minister and everyone watching of his extensive expertise in this area, and that his insight could be of value to a Conservative Party with a stated aim of levelling up. As his government spoils for a fight over culture wars, he offers a possible third way through the debate.

Planning reforms are causing consternation on all sides of the house

Every week at PMQs now there is at least one question about the government’s reforms to the planning system, from concerned Conservative backbenchers and, this week, from a Labour backbencher. MPs are coming at these radical reforms from widely different angles, but there is a strong feeling across political divides that the plans are unsatisfactory. It’s still a way off, but this week was another reminder of another problem, and potential rebellion, awaiting Boris Johnson down the line. 

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