Labour's Yvette Cooper has once again shown who’s boss during an excruciating takedown of the home secretary, Priti Patel.
This latest showdown came about after the Labour MP accused Boris Johnson of ‘ducking’ her question about Dominic Cummings in May.
Now, with her sights firmly set on the Tory minister on Wednesday, Cooper wanted some accurate figures on exactly how many people coming into the UK are estimated to have coronavirus.
Of the 50,000 people currently coming in – that you referred to – into the UK, what is the government’s current estimate of how many of them are likely to be carrying coronavirus?
Making sure everyone knew it was an estimate, Patel responded:
Well, the estimate – and officials are clear about the estimate on this – and the estimate being the only reliable estimate based on their data sets, is 0.5…
Cooper charged in:
Still?! For July?
The Home Secretary shot back:
For clarity on that, that is effectively what I have been presented with in terms of the figure that they are saying is reliable.
Chiming in with the receipts, Cooper responded:
But that was the figure for the 23 March as a percentage of the number of cases in the country. What is the figure for now – today, in July – when we’ve got different quarantine arrangements in place that are presumably based on some evidence?
Back in March, the government had no mandatory 14-day quarantine rules for people entering the UK. In June, it implemented a two-week self-isolation policy, but then eased it on 10 July.
The new measure means people entering the UK – including UK nationals – from some countries will be asked to provide an address where they self-isolate for the full 14 days.
In theory, people could be fined £100 for failing to fill in a form with these details, although there is no record of anyone being fined for breaking this as of yet.
One in five people will be randomly contacted to see if they’re adhering to the rules, with fines of up to £1,000 for people caught breaking them.
Yvette Cooper’s line of questioning aimed to try to find what evidence the easing of these quarantine measures is based on.
But Patel clearly wasn’t telling Cooper what she wanted to hear, responding:
Well, I have just told you the figure I have been given as the only reliable estimate. We will ask for that to come to you in writing from a government scientific adviser.
Unsatisfied with this response, Cooper interjected:
Have you really not had an updated figure since 23 March?
To which the Home Secretary said they “have updated figures every day”.
But Cooper wasn’t having any of it, choosing instead to defer her same line of questioning to Matthew Rycroft, permanent secretary of the Home Office.
When asked the same question, Rycroft could not provide the answer Cooper was looking for and slammed the lack of information as “troubling”.
The exchange caused many on social media to marvel at how impressive Cooper running “rings around” Priti Patel was:
The line of questioning is important because the government should know how many people are entering the UK who have coronavirus...