UK Labour lawmaker Andrew Gwynne has accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of trying to use the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to drag his feet on May’s local elections.
In an apparent nod to the US, Gwynne, the shadow local government secretary, said on Wednesday that “countries across the world have held elections” and that regrettably, “the Conservatives are now using coronavirus as a justification for fixing the dates of ours to benefit them”.
“This isn't about the [coronavirus] pandemic, it is about Boris Johnson trying to get a vaccine bump at the next set of elections”, the MP argued.
He was echoed by an unnamed Labour source that was quoted by The Times as saying Johnson had pledged that “the most vulnerable people will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-February, which means there is no legitimate reason to consider postponing the elections”.
“Countries around the world have managed to hold elections during the pandemic safely, including the US presidential election”, the source added.
The remarks come after the British prime minister announced last week that over 1.1 million people had already been vaccinated in England and 1.3 million across the UK.
"That includes more than 650,000 people over 80, which is 23 percent of all the over 80s in England”, Johnson added, saying that nearly a quarter of the most-vulnerable could have "significant" protection from the virus within four weeks after getting their first of two shots.
About 40 million people are expected to cast ballots in the 6 May local elections in the UK, in a vote that was delayed from May 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Labour has repeatedly called for the elections to be held as scheduled, the Tories cite health concerns, reportedly insisting on the vote being postponed until October.