Anti-vaxxers shouting at children entering schools not to have their vaccinations is “simply unacceptable”, Sir Keir Starmer said as he accused the government of not taking strong action against them.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), at Millennium Point in Birmingham, Mr Starmer said tackling anti-vaxxers in the West Midlands and the efforts of community leaders in the region were key to drum up vaccine uptake.
Anti-vaccine protesters have previously targeted school children in Sutton Coldfield and Solihull with bogus fertility claims.
He said: “I want to be really clear. If you have not had your first or second vaccination, go and get it. It’s so important. All of the scientific evidence shows that it is the single most effective protection we have against the virus.
“I’m a strong supporter in encouragement of this vaccine, and that’s why it’s very important here in Birmingham and other places we use our community leaders to help with that kind of messaging – all different community leaders, faith leaders, too.
“I should also say, at the same time, we need to deal with some of these anti-vaxxers. We’ve said to the government that they need to take stronger action in relation to anti-vaxxers.
“It is simply unacceptable to have anti-vaxxers outside schools, shouting at schoolchildren going into school to have their vaccination.”
How many people have been vaccinated so far?
Currently, over 66 per cent of those have had their first dose, while only a third of the population (36.8 per cent) had had their booster vaccine. This includes those aged 12 or over.
It comes as hospital chiefs across the region are sending out SOS messages to already exhausted staff, urging them to volunteer and join frontline teams in intensive care as they brace for a critical month due to the Omicron variant.
Mr Starmer’s speech, designed to kick off a new phase in Labour’s preparation for the next general election, was aimed at setting out a “public contract” between Labour and the British public
The contract will be based on “security, prosperity, and respect”.
It comes as after opinion polls showed a clear lead for his party for the first time since Boris Johnson came to power, after calamitous headlines of coronavirus parties and dubious flat renovations.
He said: “I want to start the new year by making a pledge of straight leadership. Today I want to introduce my contract with the British people. This will be a solemn agreement about what this country needs and how a good government should conduct itself.
“I am well aware that just because the Tories lose the public’s trust it doesn’t mean Labour simply inherits it. Trust has to be earned. I am confident but not complacent about the task ahead.
“So my solemn promise to you will always be to run a government that honours these principles. I have a very clear idea of what a Labour government would look like. And in 2022 I want to take my plans to the British people.”
What else did Sir Keir Starmer say in his speech - and how was it received?
Mr Starmer said the Tories have lost voters’ trust, but he also stressed that Labour still had a lot of work to do to gain voters’ confidence and can’t simply expect to “inherit” power.
He said: “We have a Prime Minister who thinks the rules apply to anyone but him. Just when trust in government has become a matter of life and death, for the Prime Minister it has become a matter of what he can get away with.”
He also said that 2022 is a big year for the country, with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and Birmingham hosting the Commonwealth Games later in the year.
Mr Starmer finished his speech by remarking Britain is a “great country” to live and prosper in.
“I believe that the best still lies ahead for this country. But only if we have the courage to create a new Britain. A country in which you and your family get the security, prosperity and respect you deserve.”
However Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden criticised the a preview of the speech as “out of touch”.
He said: “New year, same old platitudes from Keir Starmer. He’s opposed tougher sentences for criminals, voted against more money for the NHS and social care, and objects to our plan to tackle illegal immigration. Instead of building trust with the British people, he’s out of touch and without a plan for Britain’s future.”
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