Norfolk MP calls for ‘Covid coalition’ to tackle growing national emergency
PUBLISHED: 10:39 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:40 25 March 2020
A Norfolk MP and former cabinet minister has called for a “Covid coalition” to tackle the growing national emergency sparked by the outbreak of coronavirus.
George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, has demanded the “suspension of party politics as usual” and urged the government to bring in voices from across the political spectrum to tackle the spread of the disease and the economic downturn.
Mr Freeman, who lost his role as transport minister in the February reshuffle, said: “This pandemic changes everything - including politics. As the scale of the national emergency deepens we will need much more cross-party leadership.
“When we have a serious leader of the opposition we should invite Keir Starmer [if elected] to Covid Cobra, cabinet and joint No 10 briefings.
He added: “The curtailment of our freedoms, democracy, society and economy is going to demand a national government-style Covid coalition of all party leaders. It’s unavoidable.
“The scale of this - and the likely loss of tens of thousands of lives - demands a suspension of party politics as usual.”
Speaking last week, Mr Freeman warned: “This crisis is going to need everyone to pull together: locally and nationally. This is no time for local turf wars or party politics.
“The prime minister is rightly keeping the opposition closely briefed and involved. There are tough decisions ahead which will need national unity.”
But Norwich South Labour MP, Clive Lewis, warned against the move, saying: “The decisions they’re making are theirs alone.”
Mr Lewis added: “Tory MPs like George Freeman are mooting the idea that this is now the time for a unity government – bringing in Keir Starmer if he wins the leadership election.
“If you continue to make poor decisions then bringing other people in from other parties to share in that, it doesn’t become appropriate.”
Calls for greater collaboration come just days after the prime minister ordered the public to remain inside their homes.
No 10 has invited the SNP first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, the Labour Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, and the DUP first minister of Ireland into emergency meetings already, with London mayor Sadiq Khan also included in recent Cobra meetings.
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