Coronavirus forces Labour to announce leadership result behind closed doors

The coronavirus outbreak has forced Labour's leadership result to be announced behind closed doors, it's been revealed.

In a statement the party confirmed the decision to cancel the special conference planned for the 4 April.

The remaining hustings event have also been axed while Welsh Labour Conference and Scottish Labour Women's Conference have been postponed.

Instead a "scaled back event" will be held to reveal the winner on the same date instead.

A spokeswoman told the Mirror: "This is not a decision we have taken lightly. Our priority is the wellbeing of our members and staff, and ensuring we fully contribute to the collective effort to protect public health."

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The party has said  they are considering whether upcoming constituency meetings should go ahead but some local parties have already taken the decision to cancel.

Keir Starmer is the frontrunner to win the leadership race against rivals Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Earlier Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he "wouldn't be surprised" if the special event in London – which was due to be attended by members and grandees – is replaced with a broadcast on TV or social media.

"We'll follow exactly whatever we're advised," he told ITV. "If the medical advice is that over the next week that we end large gatherings and all the rest of it then we'll follow that."

Mr McDonnell said the event on April 4 could be replaced with "a TV event or through social media".

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It comes as Boris Johnson is expected to step up the UK's battle against coronavirus after the Government accepted the outbreak could no longer be contained.

After an emergency COBR meeting this lunchtime, he is due to announce that plans have moved on to the "delay" stage of the process.

This would mean the introduction of social distancing measures such as restricting public gatherings and issuing more widespread advice to stay at home.

There is also expected to be more specific preventative advice for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

The shift in British policy came as Donald Trump dramatically escalated the US response to the coronavirus pandemic despite having previously played down the outbreak.

The US President slapped a 30-day travel ban on continental Europe – excluding the UK and Ireland – even though there is effectively free movement across the continent.

Mr Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the spread of the virus and saying US clusters were "seeded" by European travellers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak played down the prospect of the UK imposing similar travel restrictions, but acknowledged the US decision could have a knock-on effect on the British economy.

The Cobra meeting comes after eight people with Covid-19 were confirmed to have died in the UK, while the total number of positive cases rose to 460.

A Cabinet minister, who has not been named, was self-isolating while awaiting a test result after coming into contact with health minister Nadine Dorries.

Several other MPs were understood to be staying at home prompting alarm at Westminster, although ministers said Parliament would stay open.

The FTSE 100 index of leading London-listed companies fell more than 5% in early trading following the World Health Organisation's declaration of a pandemic.

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