Boris Johnson could be asked to lead a national unity Government, as Winston Churchill did during the Second World War, in order to ensure cross-party consensus is achieved during the coronavirus pandemic. Several senior Tory MPs are believed to be in favour of such a move, so the public does not associate the crisis solely with the Tories if the situation worsens. The three remaining Labour leadership candidates have given a mixed response on whether they would be in favour of joining an emergency coalition.
George Freeman, a Tory MP who worked as Minister for Transport until Mr Johnson’s recent cabinet reshuffle, has suggested a “Covid coalition” Government may be unavoidable.
He told the Guardian: “The scale of this national emergency – the suspension of usual freedoms and democracy, the economic consequences and the likely loss of tens of thousands of lives – demands a suspension of politics as usual.
“When Labour have a sensible new leader, Keir Starmer [if elected] should be invited to Covid cabinet, Cobra and joint No 10 briefings.”
Another Tory MP said they thought No10 would consider a cross-party council if emergency measures have to go on for some time, especially if Parliament is unable to sit.
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Other Tories suggested a cross-party coalition was needed to help share responsibility with Labour and other opposition parties so that Mr Johnson wasn’t left entirely to blame if the situation worsens.
One Tory MP told the newspaper there was a political argument to “drag Labour in”, so the public do not entirely blame the Conservative Party for any failings.
But currently, the Prime Minister’s measures have been backed by the vast majority of Britons.
A YouGov poll, carried out from March 23-24, found 93 percent of respondents backed the stricter lockdown measures introduced by Mr Johnson on Monday.
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The Labour leadership candidates gave a mixed reaction to the idea of a national unity government.
Sir Keir Starmer, who is the current frontrunner, said he is focusing on ensuring the Government introduces sufficient measures to ensure social distancing is adhered to.
Lisa Nandy also appeared to oppose an official unity Government, and instead suggested a “national COBRA” unit comprised of opposition figures, unions, business groups and others would be better placed to deal with the outbreak.
But Rebecca Long-Bailey, who has been backed by Jeremy Corbyn, is understood to not have ruled out a cross-party coalition.