Keir Starmer has urged ministers to “look again” at the 10pm curfew when England’s lockdown measures come to an end.
The Labour leader said blanket closing times for pubs and restaurants had not worked, causing people to spill out into the streets at the same time.
In a phone-in on LBC, Mr Starmer also tore into the Government over the 15 U-turns it has made since the start of the pandemic, following the latest surrender to footballer Marcus Rashford on child hunger.
“Marcus Rashford scores another. I think it’s Rashford 2, Government 0. Another U-turn,” he said.
“In a pandemic nobody expects the Government to get everything right. To have U-turns or corrections, if there are one or two of them you might well say, ‘fair enough’.
“I think we are on 15 and counting, and that for me smacks of incompetence.”
The 10pm curfew has attracted fierce criticism from industry leaders and some politicians, with London mayor Sadiq Khan calling for it to be scrapped.
Mr Starmer said many Tory MPs agreed that the 10pm curfew needs to be reviewed and called on ministers to use the four-week national lockdown to improve the tiered system.
He said: “I do think we should get a chance to look again at the 10pm curfew. I can understand what the Government was trying to achieve but it didn’t work.
“We saw people crowding out at 10pm. There’s a smarter way of doing this and I think that if you were to stagger that time differently so people left at different times it would be far better.”
Boris Johnson has made it clear he wants to return to regional restrictions when England’s lockdown expires on December 2.
But he has not ruled out extending the lockdown if the virus is still spreading rapidly.
Mr Starmer said he hoped for no more national lockdowns in England but he could not rule it out.
“Will it have to be repeated? I hope not but I don’t think I can’t hand on heart say, definitely not,” he said.
The Labour leader said he did not want to close down businesses but tough decisions had to be made to curb the spread of coronavirus.
He urged the Prime Minister to be “less cavalier about how we come out” of lockdown.
He said: “It is unforgivable now that those same people have been overlooked again and the government urgently needs to address that.”
Taking calls from the public, Mr Starmer also said Labour could learn from President-elect Joe Biden’s “coalition building” in the US to win over voters who defected from the party at the last election.
Praising Mr Biden as a “friend of Britain”, the Labour leader said the new President-elect “will want to do a trade deal” with the UK.