Good morning. What one might call “normal politics” has been relatively marginalised in the last year because of the pandemic. (That may in part help to explain why last week marked the moment when 582 days had passed since the last Westminster byelection, a post-war record, although, as PA’s Ian Jones explains here, other factors are much more relevant.) But today we’re going to nudge a bit closer to business as usual when Labour launches its campaign for the May elections.
According to extracts from his speech released overnight, Sir Keir Starmer is going to going to put a call for nurses to get more than the 1% pay rise proposed by the government at the heart of his party’s campaign. He will say:
Under my leadership, and with our great local candidates across the country, Labour offers a very different route to recovery. Labour’s changing. Our priorities are your priorities: securing the economy, protecting the NHS, rebuilding Britain.
So, if you want to support our nurses. To rebuild social care. And to reward our key workers, then vote Labour. My mum was a nurse, my sister was a nurse, my wife works for the NHS.
I know how tough this year has been for our NHS and I know that now, more than ever, is the time to give our key workers a proper pay rise.
Every vote in this election is a chance to show the Conservatives that the British people value our NHS and our key workers so much more than this government does.
There is one obvious problem with this approach. The elections in England, for councillors, city and metro mayors, police commissioners and members of the London assembly, will have no direct bearing whatsoever on nurses’ pay. Labour could win every contest and still not be confident of reversing the proposed pay rise. (There are also elections in May to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.)
But, in practice, many voters tend not to be over-focused on the accountability boundaries relating to public sector pay, but they do respond to a message with obvious emotional appeal. And the strength of Labour’s case was highlighted last night when Caroline Nokes, a Conservative former minister and chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, told ITV’s Peston that 1% was stunningly low. She said:
It’s a very bad look for the government, and as I say I was stunned that it was as low as one percent.
(This highlights a second problem with Labour’s decision to choose nurses’ pay as a campaign theme. By election day on 6 May, Boris Johnson may well have increased NHS pay anyway. Nokes told Peston: “I think we will see it go upwards, it’s just a question of how much.”)
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes reports on the impact of Covid on the economy, and its impact on disabled people.
9.30am: NHS England publishes its annual staff survey, as well as monthly waiting time figures.
10.30am: Sir Keir Starmer launches Labour’s campaign for the local elections.
11am: NHS test and trace publishes its weekly performance figures.
12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.
12.30pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions in the Scottish parliament.
2pm: Public Health England publishes its weekly Covid surveillance report.
2.30pm: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about the budget.
Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog but we are covering non-Covid political stories too, like Labour’s local election launch, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.