With the second national lockdown set to end on the 2nd of December, the government announced a transition from the 2nd into a new regime of regional tiers. The vast majority of areas are set to be put into either tier 2 or 3, in many cases this is higher than the tier they began the lockdowns in.
Conservative MP's are set to rebel, and some estimates suggest that up to 50 Conservative backbenchers will vote against the new measures. However, Keir Starmer has announced that the Labour party will be abstaining on the new measures, meaning they will neither vote for not against them.
WATCH: The Labour leader explains his position
Keir Starmer is facing a looming revolt on his own benches, in light of the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn, and because of his own record of supporting government measures in relation to the Coronavirus. Many Labour left wingers believe Starmer is not providing sufficient opposition to the government, a view shared by many libertarians such as Lawrence Fox and Martin Daubney, which marks a rare moment of unity between those two factions.
However Starmer has his eyes on the prize, that is the next general election. He wants to be seen to be acting constructively and in a spirit of unity to defeat the virus. The last thing he wants is to be perceived to be playing party politics at a time of national crisis. However it seems to me that this decision to abstain pleases nobody, and annoys everybody.
Aneurin Bevan, who helped create the NHS under the post-war Labour government once said that those who stand in the middle of the road 'get run down'. Starmer must be careful that he doesn't typecast himself as sitting on the fence with his ear to the crowd. His decision to force abstentions on the MI5 Bill, and his silence on issues which had hitherto been hot button issues within Labour politics, such as the foreign aid budget and gender self identification could exacerbate tensions within his own party. However, with most of the country turned away from politics, and focussed on their own houses, Starmer serves to gain a net political benefit by keeping his head below the parapet until the storm is passed. By abstaining he cannot be accountable for failure, or for success, and in turbulent times that might just be the least worst outcome. It's a savvy political game and the polls seem to bear this assessment out.
All that said, with 2021 fast approaching, and the end of the COVID crisis in sight, Keir needs to up his game, come up with some policies and take a stand. He has advanced politically as far as is possible battling within the competency framework, to take a decisive lead he will need to fight, and to win, the ideational battle.