Days After ‘Absolutely’ Opposing Vaccine Passports, Labour Could Back Measures

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - MAY 27: Leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer laughs during a visit to the SGS WISE Campus on May 27, 2021 in Bristol, England. The West of England's new metro mayor Dan Norris was elected in May's elections and is being joined on a jobs visit …
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Just days after Labour said it would “absolutely” oppose proof of vaccination to enter large venues like nightclubs, party leader Keir Starmer has suggested he could back vaccine passports and proof of a negative coronavirus test result for entry to sports stadiums.

When last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that from September, he will be demanding that those entering nightclubs “and other venues where large crowds gather” show proof of vaccination, Labour’s Khalid Mahmood said on Thursday that his party would “absolutely” be voting against vaccine passports.

“That is a clear position. It’s not changing today or tomorrow,” Mr Mahmood had said. While a Labour spokesman had said that day before the party opposed the “use of Covid vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services”, voicing a preference for testing, instead.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari on Monday, party leader Keir Starmer appeared to change direction on the message party members had put out last week, suggesting that he may support vaccine passports as well as testing for sporting events “et cetera” — implying he believes going to matches to be outside of the group of “everyday” activities for which he remains opposed to vaccine passports.

“I will look carefully at what the government puts forward,” Mr Starmer said, continuing: “I want to be pragmatic about it. I want to make sure that sports and all sectors are opened up as quickly as possible. I think that passports on their own aren’t enough because, as we know, sadly, you can be double jabbed and still get the new variant.”

“So it’s got to be passports plus testing. That would be for sporting events, et cetera,” the Labour leader said, embracing Johnson’s own nebulous definitions of venues requiring vaccine passports and, as a result, allowing the potential for the Labour Party to extend what it conceives as suitable for the application of restrictions even wider.

“It depends on what the government puts on the table. What I don’t want to see is vaccine passports used on an everyday basis for access to critical things like health, dentistry, food, et cetera.

“So for sporting events, I’ll look at what the government puts on the table. I want to be pragmatic because we all want all business sectors and sporting sectors to return as quickly as possible, but not for everyday use because I don’t want to see people denied health, dentistry, food because they haven’t got a vaccine passport,” Starmer said.

Only the Liberal Democrats have so far been consistent in their objections to the introduction of domestic vaccine passports, but with just 12 MPs and only around 40 Tory rebels, much rests on Starmer’s Labour to defeat the government and its large parliamentary majority in the House of Commons.

Last week, Tory MP Mark Harper warned that if it goes through, the UK would be “effectively moving to compulsory vaccination”.

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