One can see what Keir Starmer is up to.
On the one hand, he won’t want to be seen to be playing politics with the Coronavirus. It would get his leadership off to a mis-stepped start.
On the other, he will naturally want to have a go at the Tories – and, from the point of view of many of Labour’s members and MPs, to be seen to be doing so.
He has tried today to steer a middle course by calling for the Government to publish its exit strategy for the lockdown.
This has a plus, which is that many people want to see one set out publicly soon, and that Ministers should certainly be working privately and actively to draw one up…
…And a minus, which is that soon isn’t now, at least if one wants to lockdown to hold. Because the publication of such a strategy would risk the public concluding the worst was over and that the shutdown can safely be broken.
So Starmer potentially gains from this cautious manoeuvre, but also risks losing out from a Conservative counter-attack: namely, that he is playing politics with the lockdown and with people’s lives.
Fun and games. But we have a serious suggestion to make to the Labour leader which builds on one we’ve already put to think tanks.
The party has its own research facility. And no shortage of friends in academia. Why shouldn’t Labour draw up its own proposals for ending the lockdown, and issue them within say the next fortnight?
Starmer seems to expect the Government to publish immediately, but let’s cut his party a bit of slack: after all, it doesn’t have civil service backup.
It will be said that it’s not Labour’s job to do the Conservatives’ thinking for them. But if Starmer wants his leadership to strike a new tone, it’s worth asking whether the usual norms, at a moment of national crisis, should really apply.
In any event, the trick will be gradually to get off lockdown without creating a second Coronavirus wave. It will be a difficult one to pull off.
Which means that the Government could do with every bit of help it can get. Including from Labour’s new leader.